This Small Business Innovation Research Phase I project will develop a commercially-viable device that uses micro-scale acoustic streaming (low frequency sound energy) to deliver mixing to the interior of three-dimensional (3D) scaffolds used for tissue engineering and other applications. The enabling advantage of low frequency sound energy is the ability to generate micro-scale mixing in and around scaffolds that can enhance the movement of liquid, molecules, and oxygen within scaffolds without the need for pumps or a costly and inconvenient perfusion apparatus for each scaffold. Preliminary data shows that cells can successfully grow in the presence of the acoustic energy field. Nutrient supply issues and difficulties in homogenously seeding dense tissue engineering scaffolds are issues that need to be overcome in order to successfully produce high quality, repeatable cell cultures in the complex 3D environments that are the mainstay of modern tissue engineering. Many possible solutions to these problems have been examined, including the use of spinner flask, centrifugal, vacuum fixtures, or perfusion for cell seeding. The vision for the approach proposed here is to develop a single agitation platform on which multiple scaffolds can be mounted in well-plate fixtures to deliver similar benefits as those derived from the perfusion approach but without the significant time and capital investment inherent in the perfusion loop approach. When used at low intensities, the proposed device should be able to deliver benefits similar to a perfusion approach, but in a much simpler package. When used at higher intensities in the absence of cells, additional applications and benefits can be delivered in the form of much more rapid methods for the hydration, functionalization, and enzymatic degradation of scaffolds. The goal of this research proposal is to build a robust working prototype device and to evaluate its utility as a very simple solution for the enhancement of scaffold-based cell cultures. The commercial applications of the device would be much broad within the field of tissue engineering, extending to the full range of tissues that have shown to be enhanced by more cumbersome perfusion flow-based systems, as well as to basic operations such as hydrating, functionalizing, and digesting scaffolds.
This Small Business Innovation Research Phase I project will develop and demonstrate a multifunctional Scaffold Agitation Platform that employs a novel agitation method in the form of low-frequency sound energy. By greatly enhance the penetration of liquids, molecules, and cells into the very small pores of natural and artificial scaffolds used for tissue engineering applications, the SAP will provide a low-cost, easy-to-use method of enhancing hydration, seeding, and cellular growth within scaffolds. Better culture performance and cost-savings without the use of complex pumps and tubing will translate to more affordable therapeutic products and better patient outcomes.