For clinical utility, cardiac grafts should be thick and compact, and contain physiologic density of metabolically active, differentiated cells. This involves the need to control the levels of nutrients, and most critically oxygen, throughout the construct volume. Most culture systems involve diffusional transport within the constructs, a situation associated with gradients of oxygen concentration, cell density, cell viability, and function. The goal of our study was to measure diffusional gradients of oxygen in statically cultured cardiac constructs, and to correlate oxygen gradients to the spatial distributions of cell number and cell viability. Using microelectrodes, we measured oxygen distribution in a disc-shaped constructs (3.6 mm diameter, 1.8 mm thickness) based on neonatal rat cardiomyocytes cultured on collagen scaffolds for 16 days in static dishes. To rationalize experimental data, a mathematical model of oxygen distribution was derived as a function of cell density, viability, and spatial position within the construct. Oxygen concentration and cell viability decreased linearly and the live cell density decreased exponentially with the distance from the construct surface. Physiological density of live cells was present only within the first 128 microm of the construct thickness. Medium flow significantly increased oxygen concentration within the construct, correlating with the improved tissue properties observed for constructs cultured in convectively mixed bioreactors.
(c) 2005 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.