High porosity and mass transport properties of microfiltration polymeric membranes benefit nutrients supply to cells when used as scaffolds in interstitial perfusion bioreactors for tissue engineering. High nutrients transport is assumed when pore size and porosity of the membrane are in the micrometric range. The present work demonstrates that the study of membrane fouling by proteins present in the culture medium, though not done usually, should be included in the routine testing of new polymer membranes for this intended application. Two poly(ε-caprolactone) microfiltration membranes presenting similar average pore size (approximately 0.7 µm) and porosity (>80%) but different external surface porosity and pore size have been selected as case studies. The present work demonstrates that a membrane with lower surface pore abundance and smaller external pore size (approximately 0.67 µm), combined with adequate hydrodynamics and tangential flow filtration mode is usually more convenient to guarantee high flux of nutrients. On the contrary, having large external pore size (approximately 1.70 µm) and surface porosity would incur important internal protein fouling that could not be prevented with the operation mode and hydrodynamics of the perfusion system. Additionally, the use of glycerol in the drying protocols of the membranes might cause plasticization and a consequent reduction of mass transport properties due to membrane compaction by the pressure exerted to force perfusion. Therefore, preferentially, drying protocols that omit the use of plasticizing agents are recommended.
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