Pneumatic piston hydrostatic bioreactor for cartilage tissue engineering

J. Hallas, A. J. Janvier, K. F. Hoettges, J. R. Henstock*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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During exercise, mechanical loads from the body are transduced into interstitial fluid pressure changes which are sensed as dynamic hydrostatic forces by cells in cartilage. The effects of these loading forces in health and disease are of interest to biologists, but the availability of affordable equipment for in vitro experimentation is an obstacle to research progress. Here, we report the development of a cost-effective hydropneumatic bioreactor system for research in mechanobiology. The bioreactor was assembled from readily available components (a closed-loop stepped motor and pneumatic actuator) and a minimal number of easily-machined crankshaft parts, whilst the cell culture chambers were custom designed by the biologists using CAD and entirely 3 D printed in PLA. The bioreactor system was shown to be capable of providing cyclic pulsed pressure waves at a user-defined amplitude and frequency ranging from 0 to 400 kPa and up to 3.5 Hz, which are physiologically relevant for cartilage. Tissue engineered cartilage was created from primary human chondrocytes and cultured in the bioreactor for five days with three hours/day cyclic pressure (300 kPa at 1 Hz), simulating moderate physical exercise. Bioreactor-stimulated chondrocytes significantly increased their metabolic activity (by 21%) and glycosaminoglycan synthesis (by 24%), demonstrating effective cellular transduction of mechanosensing. Our Open Design approach focused on using ‘off-the-shelf’ pneumatic hardware and connectors, open source software and in-house 3 D printing of bespoke cell culture containers to resolve long-standing problems in the availability of affordable bioreactors for laboratory research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)273-289
Number of pages17
JournalInstrumentation Science and Technology
Issue number3
Early online date20 Sept 2022
Publication statusPublished - 4 May 2023
Externally publishedYes

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