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Mathematical Modelling and Computational Simulation of in vitro Tissue Culture Processes



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To develop or engineer artificial tissues in tissue engineering, a detailed knowledge of the in vitro culture process including cell and tissue growth inside porous scaffolds, nutrient transport, and the shear stress acting on the cells is of great advantage. It has been shown that obtaining such information by means of experimental techniques is exceedingly difficult and in some ways impossible. Mathematical modelling and computational simulation based on computational fluid dynamics (CFD) has emerged recently to be a promising tool to characterize the culture process. However, due to the complicated structure of porous scaffolds, modelling and simulation of the in vitro cell culture process has been shown to be a challenging task. Furthermore, due to the cell growth during the culture process, the geometry of the scaffold structure is not constant, but changes with time, which makes the task even more challenging. To overcome these challenges, the research presented in this thesis is aimed at developing a CFD-based mathematical model and multi-time scale computational framework for culturing cell-scaffold constructs placed in perfusion bioreactors. To predict the three-dimensional (3D) cell growth in a porous tissue scaffold placed inside a perfusion bioreactor, a model is developed based on the continuity and momentum equations, a convection-diffusion equation and a suitable cell growth equation, which characterize the fluid flow, nutrient transport and cell growth, respectively. To solve these equations in a coupled fashion, an in-house FORTRAN code is developed based on the multiple relaxation time lattice Boltzmann method (MRT LBM), where the D3Q19 MRT LBM and D3Q7 MRT LBM models have been used for the fluid flow and mass transfer simulation, respectively. In the model cell growth equation, the transport of nutrients, i.e. oxygen and glucose, as well as the shear stress induced on the cells are considered for predicting the cell growth rate. In the developed model and computational framework, the influence of the dynamic strand surface on the local flow and nutrient concentration has been addressed by using a two-way coupling between the cell growth and local flow field and nutrient concentration, where a control-volume method within the LBM framework is applied. The simulation results provide quantification of the biomechanical environment, i.e. fluid velocity, shear stress and nutrient concentration inside the bioreactor. The final simulation applied the cell growth model to the culture of a three-zone tissue scaffold where the scaffold strands were initially seeded with cells. The prediction for the 3D cell growth rate indicates that the increase in the cell volume fraction is much higher in the front region of the scaffold due to the higher nutrient supply. The higher cell growth in the front zone reduces the permeability of the porous scaffold and significantly reduces the nutrient supply to the middle and rear regions of the scaffold, which in turn limit the cell growth in those regions. However, implementation of a bi-directional perfusion approach, which reverses the flow direction for second half of the culture period, is shown to significantly improve the nutrient transport inside the scaffold and increase the cell growth in the rear zone of the scaffold. The results in this study also demonstrate that the developed mathematical model and computational framework are capable of realistically simulating the 3D cell growth over extended culture periods. As such, they represent a promising tool for enhancing the growth of tissues in perfusion bioreactors.



Tissue engineering, modelling and simulation, lattice Boltzmann method, cell growth modelling, nutrient transport



Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Mechanical Engineering


Mechanical Engineering


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