Cultivation of hierarchical 3D scaffolds inside a perfusion bioreactor: scaffold design and finite-element analysis of fluid flow
The use of porous 3D scaffolds for the repair of bone nonunion and osteoporotic bone is currently an area of great interest. Using a combination of thermally-induced phase separation (TIPS) and 3D-plotting (3DP), we have generated hierarchical 3DP/TIPS scaffolds made of poly(lactic-co-glycolic acid) (PLGA) and nanohydroxyapatite (nHA). A full factorial design of experiments was conducted, in which the PLGA and nHA compositions were varied between 6‒12% w/v and 10‒40% w/w, respectively, totaling 16 scaffold formulations with an overall porosity ranging between 87%‒93%. These formulations included an optimal scaffold design identified in our previous study. The internal structures of the scaffolds were examined using scanning electron microscopy and microcomputed tomography. Our optimal scaffold was seeded with MC3T3-E1 murine preosteoblastic cells and subjected to cell culture inside a tissue culture dish and a perfusion bioreactor. The results were compared to those of a commercial CellCeram™ scaffold with a composition of 40% β-tricalcium phosphate and 60% hydroxyapatite (β-TCP/HA). Media flow within the macrochannels of 3DP/TIPS scaffolds was modeled in COMSOL software in order to fine tune the wall shear stress. CyQUANT DNA assay was performed to assess cell proliferation. The normalized number of cells for the optimal scaffold was more than twofold that of CellCeram™ scaffold after two weeks of culture inside the bioreactor. Despite the substantial variability in the results, the observed improvement in cell proliferation upon culture inside the perfusion bioreactor (vs. static culture) demonstrated the role of macrochannels in making the 3DP/TIPS scaffolds a promising candidate for scaffold-based tissue engineering.