1/28/16 Show feat. Anthony Berger on Cellular Decision Making and Biomedical Engineering

moar blood.


Our bodies are made up of hundreds of different types of cells, each with their own specific task. They react to all sorts of internal and internal stimuli as they go about their business. Sometimes they’re instructed to move left/right, reproduce, kill themselves, etc. If this all goes haywire (think, cancer), and oh man are there so many ways it could, it can profoundly affect our lives, or end them.

Anthony Berger. He looks maniacal, but these eyes are all for important scientific research.

In this interview I discuss cellular decision making and biomedical engineering with Anthony Berger, PhD student at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Tony’s work focuses on how cells respond to the structural properties of their environment – i.e. whether the tissue around them is stiff, stretchy, soft, etc. Specifically, Tony studies how tissue stiffness and fiber architecture affects the development of vasculature (blood veins) within the tissue.  To accomplish this, he designs materials that can flex to allow for changes in the rigidity of a material without changing the density of that material (a very important point in the design).

All of my designs have been based around natural materials — I generally take some sort of form of collagen (gelatin in most cases) and chemically alter it to be less flexible.  We then embedd nodules of vascular cells within the tissue and observe how the cells invade into the material and develop a system of vessels.


I liken it to an office building with people working in it.  The building is the tissue and the people are the cells doing all the work.  Drugs and chemical growth factors/hormones are like emails to the people telling them to do specific things.  Changes in different physical aspects of the tissue would be like changing certain aspects of the building — if the floors were made out of trampolines, work efficiency would probably be much different than if they were concrete.  The point is the cells are generally what do everything in your body and a lot of focus is put on them, but the physical environment, often overlooked as something that is just there, has the potential to influence a cell’s behavior.

As an example, Tony guides us through how this relates to breast cancer. Note: the stiff lump a woman may feel in her breast isn’t actually the cancer, rather an area of stiff tissue that creates a preferred environment for breast cancer to take root. Scientists aren’t sure exactly why, hence research. Take a listen!



Artist Song Album Label
Iggy Pop The Passenger Lust for Life Virgin
Introduction to the show
First Aid Kit Winter is all over you The Big Black and the Blue Jagadamba
Anthony Berger interview, Pt. 1 Biomed Engineering and Cellular Decision Making
Tacocat I hate the weekend Lost Time s/r
Anthony Berger interview, Pt. 2 Biomed Engineering and Cellular Decision Making  
Protomartyr What the wall said Under the color of official right Hardly art
Mourn Your brain is made of candy Mourn Captured tracks
Chastity Belt IDC Time to go home Hardly Art
Hop Along Waitress Painted Shut Saddle Creek
Paul Simon (General MD Shirinda, The Gaza Sisters) I know what I know Graceland Sony
Anthony Berger interview, Pt. 3 Discussing the music
Bad Brains I against I I against I s/r
Shilpa Ray Johnny Thunders Fantasy Space Camp Last Year’s Savage Northern Spy
Girl Band In Plastic Holding Hands With Jamie Rough Trade
Sylvan Esso Come down Syvan Esso Partisan Records
Daddy Issues Shitty World Can We Still Hang Infinity Cat
Bob Dylan Pledging My Time – Take 1 (3/8/1966) Bob Dylan, the cutting edge sampler 1965-1966 (Bootleg Series Vol 12) Columbia
Karen O Rapt Crush Songs Cult
Palehound Dry Food Dry Food Exploding in Sound

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