A miniaturized bioreactor system for the evaluation of cell interaction with designed substrates in perfusion culture

T. Sun, P. S. Donoghue, J. R. Higginson, N. Gadegaard, S. C. Barnett, M. O. Riehle*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


In tissue engineering, chemical and topographical cues are normally developed using static cell cultures but then applied directly to tissue cultures in three dimensions (3D) and under perfusion. As human cells are very sensitive to changes in the culture environment, it is essential to evaluate the performance of any such cues in a perfused environment before they are applied to tissue engineering. Thus, the aim of this research was to bridge the gap between static and perfusion cultures by addressing the effect of perfusion on cell cultures within 3D scaffolds. For this we developed a scaled-down bioreactor system, which allows evaluation of the effectiveness of various chemical and topographical cues incorporated into our previously developed tubular ε-polycaprolactone scaffold under perfused conditions. Investigation of two exemplary cell types (fibroblasts and cortical astrocytes) using the miniaturized bioreactor indicated that: (a) quick and firm cell adhesion in the 3D scaffold was critical for cell survival in perfusion culture compared with static culture; thus, cell-seeding procedures for static cultures might not be applicable, therefore it was necessary to re-evaluate cell attachment on different surfaces under perfused conditions before a 3D scaffold was applied for tissue cultures; (b) continuous medium perfusion adversely influenced cell spread and survival, which could be balanced by intermittent perfusion; (c) micro-grooves still maintained their influences on cell alignment under perfused conditions, while medium perfusion demonstrated additional influence on fibroblast alignment but not on astrocyte alignment on grooved substrates. This research demonstrated that the mini-bioreactor system is crucial for the development of functional scaffolds with suitable chemical and topographical cues by bridging the gap between static culture and perfusion culture.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)s4-s14
JournalJournal of Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine
Issue numberSUPPL. 3
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2012


  • Astrocytes
  • Fibroblasts
  • Miniaturized bioreactor
  • Perfusion culture
  • Tissue engineering


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