Dynamics of diffusivity and pressure drop in flow-through and parallel-flow bioreactors during tissue regeneration



In this study, transport characteristics in flow-through and parallel-flow bioreactors used in tissue engineering were simulated using computational fluid dynamics. To study nutrient distribution and consumption by smooth muscle cells colonizing the 100 mm diameter and 2-mm thick scaffold, effective diffusivity of glucose was experimentally determined using a two-chambered setup. Three different concentrations of chitosan–gelatin scaffolds were prepared by freezing at −80°C followed by lyophilization. Experiments were performed in both bioreactors to measure pressure drop at different flow rates. At low flow rates, experimental results were in agreement with the simulation results for both bioreactors. However, increase in flow rate beyond 5 mL/min in flow-through bioreactor showed channeling at the circumference resulting in lower pressure drop relative to simulation results. The Peclet number inside the scaffold indicated nutrient distribution within the flow-through bioreactor to be convection-dependent, whereas the parallel-flow bioreactor was diffusion-dependent. Three alternative design modifications to the parallel-flow were made by (i) introducing an additional inlet and an outlet, (ii) changing channel position, and (iii) changing the hold-up volume. Simulation studies were performed to assess the effect of scaffold thickness, cell densities, and permeability. These new designs improved nutrient distribution for 2 mm scaffolds; however, parallel-flow configuration was found to be unsuitable for scaffolds more than 4-mm thick, especially at low porosities as tissues regenerate. Furthermore, operable flow rate in flow-through bioreactors is constrained by the mechanical strength of the scaffold. In summary, this study showed limitations and differences between flow-through and parallel-flow bioreactors used in tissue engineering. © 2012 American Institute of Chemical Engineers Biotechnol. Prog., 28: 1045–1054, 2012