The functional requirements for Bone Tissue Engineering (BTE) scaffolds vary greatly between cases and there is a compelling argument in favour of designing case-specific scaffolds able to optimise bone formation by controlling osteogenic mechanotransduction. However, local control over the mechanical environment created within the scaffold, and characterisation of its influence on bone mechanotransduction, are insufficient. In addition, although the complexity of the multi-parameter scaffold design optimisation problem calls for rational numerical solving, scaffold designs routinely rely on trial and error approaches, associated with substantial costs in time and expenses.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              


Figure 1: Example of cubic scaffold optimised for a combination of compression and shear loading, with close-up of the corresponding 3D-printed structure produced using a stereolithography process.


This aspect of our research focuses on developing smart digital design tools for 3d-printed scaffolds providing fine control over new tissue volume formation, three-dimensional arrangement, and effective mechanical properties. It relies on precisely tuning local structural properties including stiffness, pore size and pore curvature to tailor mechanotransduction stimulation of osteogenic cells. It involves implementing efficient finite element analyses of scaffolds, interpreting in-vitro and in-silico models of osteogenic mechanotransduction, and developing smart parametric optimisation procedures. Assessment of additive manufacture reliability and in-vitro validation of the mechanotransduction models are also essential. Another key objective is to turn these computational procedures into a user-oriented software to enable researchers and clinicians unfamiliar with programming and optimisation techniques to design reliable BTE scaffolds.



Dr Claire Villette