This paper presents an experimental study of three bioreactor configurations. The bioreactor is intended to be used for the development of tissue-engineered heart valve substitutes. Therefore it must be able to reproduce physiological flow and pressure waveforms accurately. A detailed analysis of three bioreactor arrangements is presented using mathematical models based on the windkessel (WK) approach. First, a review of the many applications of this approach in medical studies enhances its fundamental nature and its usefulness. Then the models are developed with reference to the actual components of the bioreactor. This study emphasizes different conflicting issues arising in the design process of a bioreactor for biomedical purposes, where an optimization process is essential to reach a compromise satisfying all conditions. Two important aspects are the need for a simple system providing ease of use and long-term sterility, opposed to the need for an advanced (thus more complex) architecture capable of a more accurate reproduction of the physiological environment. Three classic WK architectures are analyzed, and experimental results enhance the advantages and limitations of each one.