Biotechnology and Bioengineering, Vol.118, No.2, 690-702, 2021
Development of a dynamic in vitro stretch model of the alveolar interface with aerosol delivery
We describe the engineering design, computational modeling, and empirical performance of a moving air-liquid interface (MALI) bioreactor for the study of aerosol deposition on cells cultured on an elastic, porous membrane which mimics both air-liquid interface exposure conditions and mechanoelastic motion of lung tissue during breathing. The device consists of two chambers separated by a cell layer cultured on a porous, flexible membrane. The lower (basolateral) chamber is perfused with cell culture medium simulating blood circulation. The upper (apical) chamber representing the air compartment of the lung is interfaced to an aerosol generator and a pressure actuation system. By cycling the pressure in the apical chamber between 0 and 7 kPa, the membrane can mimic the periodic mechanical strain of the alveolar wall. Focusing on the engineering aspects of the system, we show that membrane strain can be monitored by measuring changes in pressure resulting from the movement of media in the basolateral chamber. Moreover, liquid aerosol deposition at a high dose delivery rate (>1 mu l cm(-2) min(-1)) is highly efficient (ca. 51.5%) and can be accurately modeled using finite element methods. Finally, we show that lung epithelial cells can be mechanically stimulated under air-liquid interface and stretch-conditions without loss of viability. The MALI bioreactor could be used to study the effects of aerosol on alveolar cells cultured at the air-liquid interface in a biodynamic environment or for toxicological or therapeutic applications.