A mixture approach to investigate interstitial growth in engineering scaffolds.
Controlling biological growth within a cell-laden polymeric scaffold is a critical challenge in the tissue engineering community. Indeed, construct growth must often be balanced with scaffold degradation and is often coupled to varying degrees of deformation that originate from swelling, external forces and the effects of confinement. These factors have been shown to affect growth in many ways, but to date, our understanding is mostly qualitative. While cell sensing, molecular transport and scaffold/tissue interactions are believed to be important players, it will be critical to quantify, predict and control these effects in order to eventually optimize tissue growth in the laboratory. The aim of this paper was thus to provide a theoretical framework to better understand how the scaffold-mediated mechanisms of transport, deposition (and possibly degradation) and elasticity affect the overall growth of a tissue subjected to finite deformations. We propose a formulation in which the macroscopic evolutions in tissue size, density as well as the appearance of residual stresses can be directly related to changes in internal composition by considering three fundamental principles: mechanical equilibrium, chemical equilibrium and molecular incompressibility. The resulting model allows us to pay particular attention to features that are critical to the interaction between growth and deformation: osmotic pressure and swelling, the strain mismatch between old and newly deposited material as well as the mechano-sensitive cell-mediated production. We show that all of these phenomena may indeed strongly affect the overall growth of a construct under finite deformations.