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A contemporary procedure to grow artificial tissue is to seed cells onto a porous biomaterial scaffold and culture it within a perfusion bioreactor to facilitate the transport of nutrients to growing cells. Typical models of cell growth for tissue engineering applications make use of spatially homogeneous or spatially continuous equations to model cell growth, flow of culture medium, nutrient transport and their interactions. The network structure of the physical porous scaffold is often incorporated through parameters in these models, either phenomenologically or through techniques like mathematical homogenization. We derive a model on a square grid lattice to demonstrate the importance of explicitly modelling the network structure of the porous scaffold and compare results from this model with those from a modified continuum model from the literature. We capture two-way coupling between cell growth and fluid flow by allowing cells to block pores, and by allowing the shear stress of the fluid to affect cell growth and death. We explore a range of parameters for both models and demonstrate quantitative and qualitative differences between predictions from each of these approaches, including spatial pattern formation and local oscillations in cell density present only in the lattice model. These differences suggest that for some parameter regimes, corresponding to specific cell types and scaffold geometries, the lattice model gives qualitatively different model predictions than typical continuum models. Our results inform model selection for bioactive porous tissue scaffolds, aiding in the development of successful tissue engineering experiments and eventually clinically successful technologies.

Original publication




Journal article


Mathematical medicine and biology : a journal of the IMA

Publication Date



Mathematical Institute, Andrew Wiles Building, University of Oxford, Radcliffe Observatory Quarter, Woodstock Rd, UK.