A combined experimental-numerical approach was adopted to characterize glucose and oxygen uptake and lactate production by bovine articular chondrocytes in a model system. For a wide range of cell concentrations, cells in agarose were supplemented with either low or high glucose medium. During an initial culture phase of 48h, oxygen was monitored noninvasively using a biosensor system. Glucose and lactate were determined by medium sampling. In order to quantify glucose and oxygen uptake, a finite element approach was adopted to describe diffusion and uptake in the experimental model. Numerical predictions of lactate, based on simple relations for cell metabolism, were found to agree well for low glucose, but not for high glucose medium. Oxygen did not play a role in either case. Given the close association between chondrocyte energy metabolism and matrix synthesis, a quantifiable prediction of utilization can present a valuable contribution in the optimization of tissue engineering conditions.

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