Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2015

Degree Type


Degree Name



Biomedical Engineering

First Advisor

Howard Matthew


In vitro assembly of functional liver tissue is needed to enable the transplantation of tissue-engineered livers. In addition, there is an increasing demand for in vitro models that replicate complex events occurring in the liver. However, tissue engineering of sizable implantable liver systems is currently limited by the difficulty of assembling three dimensional hepatocyte cultures of a useful size, while maintaining full cell viability, an issue which is closely related to the high metabolic rate of hepatocytes. In this study, we first compared two designs of highly porous chitosan-heparin scaffolds seeded with hepatocytes in dynamic perfusion bioreactor systems. The aim was to promote cell seeding efficiency by effectively entrapping 100 million hepatocytes at high density. We found that scaffolds with radially tapering pore architecture had highly efficient cell entrapment that maximized donor hepatocyte utilization, compared to alternate pore structures. Hepatocytes showed higher seeding efficiency and metabolic function when seeded as single cell suspensions as opposed to pre-formed, 100µm aggregates. Seeding efficiency was found to increase with flow rate, with single cell and aggregate suspension exhibiting different optimal flow rates. However, metabolic performance results indicated significant shear damage to cells at high efficiency flow rates. To better maintain hepatocyte basement membrane and cell polarity, spheroid co-cultures with mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) were investigated. Hepatocytes and MSCs were seeded in three different architectures in an effort to optimize the spatial arrangement of the two cell types. MSC co-culture greatly enhanced hepatocyte metabolic function in agitated cultures. Interestingly, the effects of diffusion limitations in spheroid culture, coupled with shear damage and subsequent removal of outer hepatocyte layers produced a defined oscillation of urea production rates in certain co-culture arrangements. A mathematical model of urea synthesis in shear-exposed, co-culture spheroids reproduced the metabolic oscillations observed. This result together with culture observations suggests that MSCs can provide both physiological support and some direct shear protection to hepatocytes in perfused or shear-exposed culture environments. Finally, in order to reduce hepatocyte exposure to excessive shear forces in perfused scaffolds, a modular scaffold design based on polyelectrolyte fiber encapsulation was explored. Scaffolds with uniformly distributed, shear protected cells were achieved.