Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Biomedical Engineering (PhD)

College, School or Department Name

Department of Biomedical Engineering


Seth W Donahue


Jeremy Goldman


The delivery of oxygen, nutrients, and the removal of waste are essential for cellular survival. Culture systems for 3D bone tissue engineering have addressed this issue by utilizing perfusion flow bioreactors that stimulate osteogenic activity through the delivery of oxygen and nutrients by low-shear fluid flow. It is also well established that bone responds to mechanical stimulation, but may desensitize under continuous loading. While perfusion flow and mechanical stimulation are used to increase cellular survival in vitro, 3D tissue-engineered constructs face additional limitations upon in vivo implantation. As it requires significant amounts of time for vascular infiltration by the host, implants are subject to an increased risk of necrosis. One solution is to introduce tissue-engineered bone that has been pre-vascularized through the co-culture of osteoblasts and endothelial cells on 3D constructs.

It is unclear from previous studies: 1) how 3D bone tissue constructs will respond to partitioned mechanical stimulation, 2) how gene expression compares in 2D and in 3D, 3) how co-cultures will affect osteoblast activity, and 4) how perfusion flow will affect co-cultures of osteoblasts and endothelial cells. We have used an integrated approach to address these questions by utilizing mechanical stimulation, perfusion flow, and a co-culture technique to increase the success of 3D bone tissue engineering. We measured gene expression of several osteogenic and angiogenic genes in both 2D and 3D (static culture and mechanical stimulation), as well as in 3D cultures subjected to perfusion flow, mechanical stimulation and partitioned mechanical stimulation. Finally, we co-cultured osteoblasts and endothelial cells on 3D scaffolds and subjected them to long-term incubation in either static culture or under perfusion flow to determine changes in gene expression as well as histological measures of osteogenic and angiogenic activity.

We discovered that 2D and 3D osteoblast cultures react differently to shear stress, and that partitioning mechanical stimulation does not affect gene expression in our model. Furthermore, our results suggest that perfusion flow may rescue 3D tissue-engineered constructs from hypoxic-like conditions by reducing hypoxia-specific gene expression and increasing histological indices of both osteogenic and angiogenic activity. Future research to elucidate the mechanisms behind these results may contribute to a more mature bone-like structure that integrates more quickly into host tissue, increasing the potential of bone tissue engineering.