The use of resorbable biomaterials to induce regeneration directly in the body is an attractive strategy from a translational perspective. Such materials induce an inflammatory response upon implantation, which is the driver of subsequent resorption of the material and the regeneration of new tissue. This strategy, also known as in situ tissue engineering, is pursued to obtain cardiovascular replacements such as tissue-engineered vascular grafts. Both the inflammatory and the regenerative processes are determined by the local biomechanical cues on the scaffold (i.e., stretch and shear stress). Here, we describe in detail the use of a custom-developed bioreactor that uniquely enables the decoupling of stretch and shear stress on a tubular scaffold. This allows for the systematic and standardized evaluation of the inflammatory and regenerative capacity of tubular scaffolds under the influence of well-controlled mechanical loads, which we demonstrate on the basis of a dynamic co-culture experiment using human macrophages and myofibroblasts. The key practical steps in this approach—the construction and setting up of the bioreactor, preparation of the scaffolds and cell seeding, application and maintenance of stretch and shear flow, and sample harvesting for analysis—are discussed in detail.
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