In bone tissue engineering using a biodegradable scaffold, geometry of the porous scaffold microstructure is a key factor for controlling mechanical function of the bone-scaffold system in the regeneration process as well as after the regeneration. In this study, we propose a framework for the optimal design of the porous scaffold microstructure by three-dimensional computational simulation of bone tissue regeneration that consists of scaffold degradation and new bone formation. The rate of scaffold degradation due to hydrolysis, that leads to decrease in mechanical properties, was simply assumed to relate to the water content diffused from the surface to the bulk material. For the new bone formation on both bone and scaffold surfaces, the rate equation of trabecular surface remodeling driven by mechanical stimulation was applied. Solving these two phenomena in the same time frame, the bone regeneration process in the bone-scaffold system was predicted by computational simulation using a voxel finite element method. The change in the mechanical function of the bone-scaffold system during the regeneration process was quantitatively evaluated by measuring the change in total strain energy, and this was used for the evaluation function to optimize the scaffold microstructure that provides the desired mechanical function during and after the bone regeneration process. A case study conducted for the scaffold with a simple microstructure demonstrated that the proposed simulation method could be applied to the design of a porous scaffold microstructure. In addition, the regeneration process was found to be very complex even though the simple rate equations for scaffold regeneration and new bone formation were used because of the coupling effects of these phenomena. © 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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