The aim of this study was to investigate the suitability of decellularised porcine pericardium for heterotopic repair of the mitral valve (MV) leaflets, and its potential to regenerate through endogenous cell repopulation in vivo, or in vitro seeding and bioreactor conditioning. Anterior and posterior MV leaflets and pericardia were excised from porcine hearts within. The pericardia were decellularised according to the in-house protocol. Anterior and posterior leaflet, and decellularised and fresh pericardial samples were subjected to histology (H and E, Masson trichrome, Sirius Red, Miller’s elastin, Alcian blue-PAS), immunohistochemistry (collagen type I, III, IV, fibronectin, laminin, and chondroitin sulfate labelling), SEM, and uniaxial tensile testing. Samples were isolated along the radial and circumferential direction (leaflets), and perpendicular and parallel to the collagen fibres (pericardium). Biochemical assays for quantification of the sulphated GAG and collagen content of the tissues were also performed. Contact and extract cytotoxicity testing, and DNA quantification was performed to assess the decellularised pericardia. Histology revealed the trilaminar structure of the pericardium and quadrilaminar structure of the leaflets. Collagen type I and III was found in the fibrosa layers of both pericardium and leaflets, whereas fibronectin and laminin were found throughout the tissues. Decellularisation produced a completely acellular pericardial scaffold, which retained the histoarchitecture of the natural tissue. The biomechanics showed the anterior leaflets being stiffer along the circumferential direction. No significant anisotropy was observed in the biomechanics of the posterior leaflets, or fresh and decellularised pericardium. The anisotropy of the anterior leaflet was attributed to the orientation of the collagen (aligned along the circumferential direction). Biochemistry showed a significant increase in sulphated GAGs between the fresh leaflets and pericardium. No difference was found between the collagen content of the fresh leaflets and the fresh or decellularised pericardium. The decellularised pericardium showed a 99% reduction in DNA and a high loss in the GAG content compared to the fresh pericardium. The study showed that the MV leaflets and pericardium share similar histoarchitectures and comparable biomechanics. The similarity was more pronounced in the case of the posterior leaflet which was more isotropic both in terms of histoarchitecture and biomechanics. Apart from a decreased GAG content, the similarity was also apparent between the leaflets and the pericardial scaffolds. The decellularised pericardium has the potential to deliver the necessary biological and biomechanical cues to seeded or migrating cells, representing a plausible scaffold option for the regeneration of the MV leaflets in vitro or in vivo.


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  • Accepted: 31 May 2012
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