Operator control of cell/matrix density of plastically compressed collagen hydrogel scaffolds critically depends on reproducibly limiting the extent of scaffold compaction, as fluid expulsion. A functional model of the compression process is presented, based on the idea that the main fluid-leaving surface (FLS) behaves as an ultrafiltration membrane, allowing fluid (water) out but retaining collagen fibrils to form a cake. We hypothesize that accumulation of collagen at the FLS produces anisotropic structuring but also increases FLS hydraulic resistance (R(FLS) ), in turn limiting the flux. Our findings show that while compressive load is the primary determinant of flux at the beginning of compression (load-dependent phase), increasing FLS collagen density (measured by X-ray attenuation) and increasing R(FLS) become the key determinants of flux as the process proceeds (flow-dependent phase). The model integrates these two phases and can closely predict fluid loss over time for a range of compressive loads. This model provides a useful tool for engineering cell and matrix density to tissue-specific levels, as well as generating localized 3D nano micro-scale structures and zonal heterogeneity within scaffolds. Such structure generation is important for complex tissue engineering and forms the basis for process automation and up-scaling.
Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.