Tissue engineering involves culturing, growing and assembling cells and newly generated matrix in polymeric scaffolds. To achieve a functional tissue in vitro, the cell-scaffold constructs are subjected to various stimulations during an incubation phase, which mimics the in vivo environment. In order to monitor the progression of tissue formation, there is a need for on-line and non-destructive methods of monitoring at the cellular and biomolecular level, for example, the assessment of scaffold degradation alongside the measure of matrix production. This study presents a proof of concept for monitoring scaffold degradation on-line within a culture environment. Using a mesoporous silica based approach, a pH sensitive fluorescent probe, fluorescein isothiocyanate (FITC), was incorporated into degradable polymeric scaffolds made from poly(L-lactic acid) which has a slow degradation rate, and poly(lactide-co-glycolide) which has a rapid degradation rate. The fluorescent probe was incorporated into thin films and three dimensional porous scaffolds demonstrating the capabilities of monitoring on-line. Following incubation, the intensity of fluorescence in the rapidly degrading scaffolds reduced with culture time in comparison to slow degrading polymeric scaffolds when observed qualitatively using fluorescent microscopy. The relationship between pH and fluorescent intensity was assessed, and the use of this technique for monitoring by-products via the solid scaffold by microscopy or through culture medium by a luminescence spectrometer is discussed. This study demonstrates that endowing scaffolds with a sensing element could provide an on-line and non-destructive monitoring method for tissue engineering.
Yang, Y., Yiu, H. H. P., & El Haj, A. J. (2005). On-line fluorescent monitoring of the degradation of polymeric scaffolds for tissue engineering. Analyst, 130(11), 1502-1506. https://doi.org/10.1039/b506911d