A number of bone tissue engineering strategies use porous three-dimensional scaffolds in combination with bioreactor regimes. The ability to understand cell behaviour relative to strain profile will allow for the effects of mechanical conditioning in bone tissue engineering to be realized and optimized. We have designed a model system to investigate the effects of strain profile on bone cell behaviour. This simplified model has been designed with a view to providing insight into the types of strain distribution occurring across a single pore of a scaffold subjected to perfusion-compression conditioning. Local strains were calculated at the surface of the pore model using finite-element analysis. Scanning electron microscopy was used in secondary electron mode to identify cell morphology within the pore relative to local strains, while backscattered electron detection in combination with X-ray microanalysis was used to identify calcium deposition. Morphology was altered according to the level of strain experienced by bone cells, where cells subjected to compressive strains (up to 0.61%) appeared extremely rounded while those experiencing zero and tensile strain (up to 0.81%) were well spread. Osteoid mineralization was similarly shown to be dose dependent with respect to substrate strain within the pore model, with the highest level of calcium deposition identified in the intermediate zones of tension/compression.
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