The supply of cells with nutrients remains a challenge in tissue engineering. A possible approach to solve this problem is the integration of a supply system into the scaffold, e.g. an additively manufactured artificial blood vessel system. The consumption of nutrients by the cells embedded in a substrate (e.g. a hydrogel) and the supply of the nutrients by a vessel system determines the nutrient concentration in the substrate.
The equilibrium concentration profile depends on the metabolic rate of the cells, the diffusivity of the nutrients in the substrate, the size of the system and the design of the vessel system. Using reactive transport equations, the performance of different vessel trees can be compared and the optimal design of a vessel system can be determined. Cells with a high metabolic rate and substrates with a low nutrient diffusivity require more complex vessel systems than tissue models with a low metabolic rate and high diffusivity.