Characterization of Mechanical Properties of Tissue Scaffolds by Phase Contrast Imaging and Finite Element Modeling

In tissue engineering, the cell and scaffold approach has shown promise as a treatment to regenerate diseased and/or damaged tissue. In this treatment, an artificial construct (scaffold) is seeded with cells, which organize and proliferate into new tissue. The scaffold itself biodegrades with time, leaving behind only newly formed tissue. The degradation qualities of the scaffold are critical during the treatment period, since the change in the mechanical properties of the scaffold with time can influence cell behavior. To observe in time the scaffold’s mechanical properties, a straightforward method is to deform the scaffold and then characterize scaffold deflection accordingly. However, experimentally observing the scaffold deflection is challenging. This paper presents a novel study on characterization of mechanical properties of scaffolds by phase contrast imaging and finite element modeling, which specifically includes scaffold fabrication, scaffold imaging, image analysis, and finite elements (FEs) modeling of the scaffold mechanical properties. The innovation of the work rests on the use of in-line phase contrast X-ray imaging at 20 KeV to characterize tissue scaffold deformation caused by ultrasound radiation forces and the use of the Fourier transform to identify movement. Once deformation has been determined experimentally, it is then compared with the predictions given by the forward solution of a finite element model. A consideration of the number of separate loading conditions necessary to uniquely identify the material properties of transversely isotropic and fully orthotropic scaffolds is also presented, along with the use of an FE as a form of regularization.