A systematically reduced mathematical model for organoid expansion


Ellis, M
Dalwadi, M
Byrne, H
Waters, S

Publication Date: 

10 June 2021


Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology

Last Updated: 







Organoids are three-dimensional multicellular tissue constructs. When cultured in vitro, they recapitulate the structure, heterogeneity, and function of their in vivo counterparts. As awareness of the multiple uses of organoids has grown, e.g. in drug discovery and personalised medicine, demand has increased for low-cost and efficient methods of producing them in a reproducible manner and at scale. Here we focus on a bioreactor technology for organoid production, which exploits fluid flow to enhance mass transport to and from the organoids. To ensure large numbers of organoids can be grown within the bioreactor in a reproducible manner, nutrient delivery to, and waste product removal from, the organoids must be carefully controlled. We develop a continuum mathematical model to investigate how mass transport within the bioreactor depends on the inlet flow rate and cell seeding density, focusing on the transport of two key metabolites: glucose and lactate. We exploit the thin geometry of the bioreactor to systematically simplify our model. This significantly reduces the computational cost of generating model solutions, and provides insight into the dominant mass transport mechanisms. We test the validity of the reduced models by comparison with simulations of the full model. We then exploit our reduced mathematical model to determine, for a given inlet flow rate and cell seeding density, the evolution of the spatial metabolite distributions throughout the bioreactor. To assess the bioreactor transport characteristics, we introduce metrics quantifying glucose conversion (the ratio between the total amounts of consumed and supplied glucose), the maximum lactate concentration, the proportion of the bioreactor with intolerable lactate concentrations, and the time when intolerable lactate concentrations are first experienced within the bioreactor. We determine the dependence of these metrics on organoid-line characteristics such as proliferation rate and rate of glucose consumption per cell. Finally, for a given organoid line, we determine how the distribution of metabolites and the associated metrics depend on the inlet flow rate. Insights from this study can be used to inform bioreactor operating conditions, ultimately improving the quality and number of bioreactor-expanded organoids.

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Publication Type: 

Journal Article