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Understanding cell-bubble interactions is crucial for preventing bubble related pathologies and harnessing their potential therapeutic benefits. Bubbles can occur in the body as a result of therapeutic intravenous administration, surgery, infections or decompression. Subsequent interactions with living cells, may result in pathological responses such as decompression sickness (DCS). This work investigates the interactions that occur between bubbles formed during decompression and cells in a 3D engineered tissue phantom. Increasing the tissue phantoms' cellular density resulted in decreased dissolved O2 (DO) concentrations (p = 0.0003) measured using real-time O2 monitoring. Direct microscopic observation of these phantoms, revealed a significant (p = 0.0024) corresponding reduction in bubble nucleation. No significant difference in growth rate or maximum size of the bubbles was measured (p = 0.99 and 0.23). These results show that bubble nucleation is dominated by DO concentration (affected by cellular metabolism), rather than potential nucleation sites provided by cell-surfaces. Consequent bubble growth depends not only on DO concentration but also on competition for dissolved gas. Cell death was found to significantly increase (p = 0.0116) following a bubble-forming decompression. By comparison to 2D experiments; the more biomimetic 3D geometry and extracellular matrix in this work, provide data more applicable for understanding and developing models of in vivo bubble dynamics.

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Algorithms, Cell Communication, Models, Biological, Oxygen, Phantoms, Imaging, Surface Tension, Tissue Engineering