Limitations to nutrient transport provide a challenge to the development of 3D tissue-engineered constructs. A heterogeneous distribution of viable cells and functional matrix within the developing tissue is a common consequence. In the present study, a bioreactor was developed to perfuse fluid through cylindrical agarose constructs. The transport and distribution of dextran molecules (FD-4, FD-500, FD-2000) within the agarose was visualized in order to determine the bioreactors effectiveness for transport enhancement. By 24 h, the perfusion bioreactor achieved 529%, 395% and 294% higher concentrations of FD-4, FD-500 and FD-2000, respectively, than those solely due to diffusion. Of particular interest was the effectiveness of the bioreactor to transport molecules to the central region of the constructs. In this respect, the perfusion bioreactor was found to increase transportation of FD-4, FD-500 and FD-2000 by 30%, 291% and 222% over that of diffusion. Articular chondrocytes were cultured and perfused using the bioreactor. The improved molecular transport achieved led to an average 75% and 1340% increase of DNA and sulphated GAG, respectively at 20 days. More significantly was the 106% and 1603% increase of DNA and GAG, respectively, achieved at the central core of the 3D construct
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