Non-neotissue constituents as underestimated confounders in the assessment of tissue engineered constructs by near-infrared spectroscopy

Omar Anwar Elkadi a, Florencia Abinzano b, Ervin Nippolainen a, Ona Bach González b, Riccardo Levato b c, Jos Malda b c, Isaac O. Afara a

Published: February 2024

Non-destructive assessments are required for the quality control of tissue-engineered constructs and the optimization of the tissue culture process. Near-infrared (NIR) spectroscopy coupled with machine learning (ML) provides a promising approach for such assessment. However, due to its nonspecific nature, each spectrum incorporates information on both neotissue and non-neotissue constituents of the construct; the effect of these constituents on the NIR-based assessments of tissue-engineered constructs has been overlooked in previous studies. This study investigates the effect of scaffolds, growth factors, and buffers on NIR-based assessments of tissue-engineered constructs. To determine if these non-neotissue constituents have a measurable effect on the NIR spectra of the constructs that can introduce bias in their assessment, nine ML algorithms were evaluated in classifying the NIR spectra of engineered cartilage according to the scaffold used to prepare the constructs, the growth factors added to the culture media, and the buffers used for storing the constructs. The effect of controlling for these constituents was also evaluated using controlled and uncontrolled NIR-based ML models for predicting tissue maturity as an example of neotissue-related properties of interest. Samples used in this study were prepared using norbornene-modified hyaluronic acid scaffolds with or without the conjugation of an N-cadherin mimetic peptide. Selected samples were supplemented with transforming growth factor-beta1 or bone morphogenetic protein-9 growth factor. Some samples were frozen in cell lysis buffer, while the remaining samples were frozen in PBS until required for NIR analysis. The ML models for classifying the spectra of the constructs according to the four constituents exhibited high to fair performances, with F1 scores ranging from 0.9 to 0.52. Moreover, controlling for the four constituents significantly improved the performance of the models for predicting tissue maturity, with improvement in F1 scores ranging from 0.09 to 0.77. In conclusion, non-neotissue constituents have measurable effects on the NIR spectra of tissue-engineered constructs that can be detected by ML algorithms and introduce bias in the assessment of the constructs by NIR spectroscopy. Therefore, controlling for these constituents is necessary for reliable NIR-based assessments of tissue-engineered constructs.

Full Access Link: Materials Today Bio