A computational structural deterministic modeling strategy has been developed and experimentally validated to (1) assist tissue engineering scaffold fabrication, and as a consequence to improve in vivo scaffolds performances, and (2) provide a better understanding of cellular mechanical and metabolic response to local micro-structural deformations of the extracellular matrix (ECM). Image analysis software was developed and tested on electrospun poly (ester urethane) urea (PEUU) scaffolds, collagen gels, decellularized tissues. The algorithm analyzed SEM and multi-photon images (maximum imaging penetration depth: 160 µm) providing a full 3D characterization of engineered constructs morphology (n ≥ 6). The detected material topologies were adopted to generate statistically equivalent scaffold biomechanical models minimizing the difference between the real material and network model architectural features. The mechanical response at the macro scale was fully characterized by stress control biaxial tests (n ≥ 6). The experimental biaxial response was used to calibrate a Finite Element Model able to predict, for a given material topology, the mechanical response at both organ (cm), cells (100 µm) and fiber (1 µm) levels. Scaffold networks models were imported in Abaqus, Yeoh strain energy with incompressibility hypothesis and t2d2h elements were adopted. Stress vs. strain prediction was produced for four different scaffold groups: isotropic ES-PEUU, anisotropic ES-PEUU, Vascular Smooth Muscle Cells integrated PEUU, Polystyrene micro-spheres integrated (10 µm diameter) proving the flexibility of the modeling approach. At mesoscopic level nuclear aspect ratio vs. strain curve for the rat VSMCs embedded into the scaffold was produced and compared with previous experimental findings. At the microscopic level the single fiber initial shear modulus was quantified from the strain energy function material parameters, and compared with Atomic Force Microscopy measurements on single PEUU fibers. The developed generalist modeling approach bridges scaffold fabrication parameters, micro architecture, and organ level - cell level mechanical response.


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  • Accepted: 03 June 2012
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