This study presents a mathematical model for simulating cartilaginous culture of chondrocytes seeded in scaffolds and for investigating the effects of glucose and oxygen concentration and pH value on cell metabolic rates. The model can clearly interpret the unexplained experimental observation (Sengers BG, Heywood HK, Lee DA, Oomens CWJ, Bader DL. Nutrient utilization by bovine articular chondrocytes: A combined experimental and theoretical approach. J Biomech Eng. 2005;127:758–766.), which showed that the oxygen concentration within the scaffold may increase instead of continuously decreasing in static cartilaginous culture of chondrocytes. Results from simulation demonstrate that when cells metabolize glucose and form lactate under high glucose concentration conditions, the acidity in the culture environment increases, inhibiting cell metabolic rates in the process. Consequently, the rate of oxygen consumption decreases in later stages of cell culture. As oxygen can be replenished through the free surface of the culture medium, oxygen concentration within the scaffold increases rather than decreases over time in the acidic environment. Different initial glucose concentration yields different results. In low glucose concentration conditions, oxygen concentration basically keeps decreasing with culture time. This is because the pH in the environment does not significantly change because of slower glycolysis rate in low glucose concentration cases, forming less lactic acid. From the simulation results, additional information regarding in vitro culture of chondrocytes is obtained. The correlations between nutrient consumption, lactate secretion, and pH changes during cell culture are also understood and may serve as a reference for in vitro cell culture research of tissue engineering. © 2013 American Institute of Chemical Engineers Biotechnol. Prog., 29: 452–462, 2013
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