This study presents the design and validation of a pulsatile flow perfusion bioreactor able to provide a suitable environment for 3D high cell density cultures for tissue engineering applications. Our bioreactor system is mobile, does not require the use of traditional cell culture incubators and is easy to sterilize. It provides real-time monitoring and stable control of pH, dissolved oxygen concentration, temperature, pressure, pulsation frequency, and flow rate. In this bioreactor system, cells are cultured in a gel within a chamber perfused by a culture medium fed by hollow fibers. Human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVEC) suspended in fibrin were found to be living, making connections and proliferating up to five to six times their initial seeding number after a 48-h culture period. Cells were uniformly dispersed within the 14.40 mm × 17.46 mm × 6.35 mm chamber. Cells suspended in 6.35-mm thick gels and cultured in a traditional CO2 incubator were found to be round and dead. In control experiments carried out in a traditional cell culture incubator, the scarcely found living cells were mostly on top of the gels, while cells cultured under perfusion bioreactor conditions were found to be alive and uniformly distributed across the gel. Biotechnol. Bioeng. 2009; 104: 1215–1223. © 2009 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.