We are applying the principles of intelligent manufacturing to the field of tissue engineering. We are embedding sensing techniques into a custom bioreactor platform to enable real-time monitoring of tissue integrity during growth. Our present design builds on earlier bioreactors constructed at NIST that provided biaxial mechanical stimulation, with optical microscopy used to periodically monitor cell growth. The next generation of bioreactors include the ability to monitor the quality of the tissue as it is growing by measuring biological and histological parameters online.
We are collaborating with Kristi Anseth (University of Colorado), a leading tissue engineering researcher, to develop a new bioreactor for cell-seeded hydrogel scaffold constructs. Ultrasonic sensors have been incorporated to monitor extracellular matrix content, and electrochemical sensors have been developed to measure metabolic activity. Dr. Anseth plans to use this bioreactor to investigate the effects of polymer chemistry on scaffold durability, helping her advance hydrogel-based cartilage replacement.