A novel bioreactor for mechanobiological studies of engineered heart valve tissue formation under pulmonary arterial physiological flow conditions

J Biomech Eng. 2014 Dec;136(12):121009. doi: 10.1115/1.4028815.


The ability to replicate physiological hemodynamic conditions during in vitro tissue development has been recognized as an important aspect in the development and in vitro assessment of engineered heart valve tissues. Moreover, we have demonstrated that studies aiming to understand mechanical conditioning require separation of the major heart valve deformation loading modes: flow, stretch, and flexure (FSF) (Sacks et al., 2009, "Bioengineering Challenges for Heart Valve Tissue Engineering," Annu. Rev. Biomed. Eng., 11(1), pp. 289-313). To achieve these goals in a novel bioreactor design, we utilized a cylindrical conduit configuration for the conditioning chamber to allow for higher fluid velocities, translating to higher shear stresses on the in situ tissue specimens while retaining laminar flow conditions. Moving boundary computational fluid dynamic (CFD) simulations were performed to predict the flow field under combined cyclic flexure and steady flow (cyclic-flex-flow) states using various combinations of flow rate, and media viscosity. The device was successfully constructed and tested for incubator housing, gas exchange, and sterility. In addition, we performed a pilot experiment using biodegradable polymer scaffolds seeded with bone marrow derived stem cells (BMSCs) at a seeding density of 5 × 10(6) cells/cm(2). The constructs were subjected to combined cyclic flexure (1 Hz frequency) and steady flow (Re = 1376; flow rate of 1.06 l/min (LPM); shear stress in the range of 0-9 dynes/cm(2) for 2 weeks to permit physiological shear stress conditions. Assays revealed significantly (P < 0.05) higher amounts of collagen (2051 ± 256 μg/g) at the end of 2 weeks in comparison to similar experiments previously conducted in our laboratory but performed at subphysiological levels of shear stress (<2 dynes/cm(2); Engelmayr et al., 2006, "Cyclic Flexure and Laminar Flow Synergistically Accelerate Mesenchymal Stem Cell-Mediated Engineered Tissue Formation: Implications for Engineered Heart Valve Tissues," Biomaterials, 27(36), pp. 6083-6095). The implications of this novel design are that fully coupled or decoupled physiological flow, flexure, and stretch modes of engineered tissue conditioning investigations can be readily accomplished with the inclusion of this device in experimental protocols on engineered heart valve tissue formation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Biomimetics / instrumentation*
  • Bioreactors*
  • Bone Marrow Cells / cytology
  • Gases / chemistry
  • Heart Valves / cytology*
  • Hydrodynamics*
  • Mechanical Phenomena*
  • Models, Biological
  • Pulmonary Artery / physiology*
  • Shear Strength
  • Sheep
  • Stem Cells / cytology
  • Sterilization
  • Stress, Mechanical
  • Tissue Engineering*


  • Gases