A novel perfusion bioreactor promotes the expansion of pluripotent stem cells in a 3D-bioprinted tissue chamber

Biofabrication. 2023 Nov 10;16(1):014101. doi: 10.1088/1758-5090/ad084a.


While the field of tissue engineering has progressed rapidly with the advent of 3D bioprinting and human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs), impact is limited by a lack of functional, thick tissues. One way around this limitation is to 3D bioprint tissues laden with hiPSCs. In this way, the iPSCs can proliferate to populate the thick tissue mass prior to parenchymal cell specification. Here we design a perfusion bioreactor for an hiPSC-laden, 3D-bioprinted chamber with the goal of proliferating the hiPSCs throughout the structure prior to differentiation to generate a thick tissue model. The bioreactor, fabricated with digital light projection, was optimized to perfuse the interior of the hydrogel chamber without leaks and to provide fluid flow around the exterior as well, maximizing nutrient delivery throughout the chamber wall. After 7 days of culture, we found that intermittent perfusion (15 s every 15 min) at 3 ml min-1provides a 1.9-fold increase in the density of stem cell colonies in the engineered tissue relative to analogous chambers cultured under static conditions. We also observed a more uniform distribution of colonies within the tissue wall of perfused structures relative to static controls, reflecting a homogeneous distribution of nutrients from the culture media. hiPSCs remained pluripotent and proliferative with application of fluid flow, which generated wall shear stresses averaging ∼1.0 dyn cm-2. Overall, these promising outcomes following perfusion of a stem cell-laden hydrogel support the production of multiple tissue types with improved thickness, and therefore increased function and utility.

Keywords: 3D bioprinting; bioreactor; extracellular matrix; proliferation; stem cells.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Bioreactors
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Humans
  • Hydrogels
  • Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells*
  • Perfusion
  • Pluripotent Stem Cells*
  • Tissue Engineering
  • Tissue Scaffolds / chemistry


  • Hydrogels