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An automated 3D-printed perfusion bioreactor combinable with pulsed electromagnetic field stimulators for bone tissue investigations

March 2022


In bone tissue engineering research, bioreactors designed for replicating the main features of the complex native environment represent powerful investigation tools. Moreover, when equipped with automation, their use allows reducing user intervention and dependence, increasing reproducibility and the overall quality of the culture process. In this study, an automated uni-/bi-directional perfusion bioreactor combinable with pulsed electromagnetic field (PEMF) stimulation for culturing 3D bone tissue models is proposed. A user-friendly control unit automates the perfusion, minimizing the user dependency. Computational fluid dynamics simulations supported the culture chamber design and allowed the estimation of the shear stress values within the construct. Electromagnetic field simulations demonstrated that, in case of combination with a PEMF stimulator, the construct can be exposed to uniform magnetic fields. Preliminary biological tests on 3D bone tissue models showed that perfusion promotes the release of the early differentiation marker alkaline phosphatase. The histological analysis confirmed that perfusion favors cells to deposit more extracellular matrix (ECM) with respect to the static culture and revealed that bi-directional perfusion better promotes ECM deposition across the construct with respect to uni-directional perfusion. Lastly, the Real-time PCR results of 3D bone tissue models cultured under bi-directional perfusion without and with PEMF stimulation revealed that the only perfusion induced a ~ 40-fold up-regulation of the expression of the osteogenic gene collagen type I with respect to the static control, while a ~ 80-fold up-regulation was measured when perfusion was combined with PEMF stimulation, indicating a positive synergic pro-osteogenic effect of combined physical stimulations.


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