Engineering Innovation Podcast and Radio Series

Architecture of the Cell

PostedFebruary 7, 2004

Download File (mp3)

Go to the grounds of D.C.'s Hirshhorn museum, and shove the base of sculptor Kenneth Snelson's sixty-foot Needle Tower.  It won't fall down, but you'll see the push ripple upward.  The tower's beams are held in place only by the perfectly balanced tension of a wire that returns the structure to its original form.  Harvard biologist Don Ingber was inspired by Snelson's work in an art class.  He believes our bones and muscles are engineered like the sculpture... perfectly pushing and pulling those beams and wires.  But his theory extends down to the individual cell, which, Ingber claims, is not the loose bag of fluids you learned about in biology class.  It's a controversial idea, but Ingber thinks if scientists can fully understand those tensions and flexibilities, we may one day literally build replacements for diseased tissues, even entire organs.  With the National Academy of Engineering, Randy Atkins, WTOP Radio.