We investigate the combination of transcatheter aortic-valve implantation (TAVI) and a novel concept of stem cell-based, tissue-engineered heart-valves (TEHV) comprising minimally-invasive techniques for both, cell-harvest and valve-delivery. TAVI represents an emerging technology for the treatment of aortic-valve disease. The utilized bioprostheses are inherently prone to calcific-degeneration and recent evidence suggests even accelerated degeneration resulting from structural-damage due to the crimping-procedures. Autologous, living heart-valve prosthesis with regeneration and repair capacities would overcome such limitations. Methods: Within a one-step intervention, tri-leaflet TEHV, generated from biodegradable synthetic-scaffolds, were integrated into self-expanding nitinol-stents, seeded with autologous bone-marrow mononuclear cells, crimped and transapically delivered into adult sheep (n=12). The animals were followed up for up to 2 weeks. TEHV-functionality was assessed by fluoroscopy, echocardiography and computed-tomography. Post-mortem analysis was performed using histology, extracellular-matrix analysis and electron-microscopy. Transapical aortic implantation of TEHV was successful in all animals (n=12) and the entire procedure-time from cell-harvest to TEHV-delivery was 109±14min. Fluoroscopy and echocardiography displayed TEHV-functionality demonstrating an adequate leaflet-mobility and co-aptation. Explanted TEHV showed intact leaflet-structures with well defined cusps without signs of thrombus-formation or structural-damage. Histology and ECM analysis displayed a high cellularity indicative for an early cellular-remodelling and in-growth after 2weeks. For the first time, we demonstrate the principal feasibility of a transcatheter, stem cell-based TEHV implantation into the aortic-valve position within a one-step intervention. Its long term functionality proven, a stem cell-based TEHV approach may represent a next generation heart-valve concept extending the clinical indication of transcatheter valves beyond elderly high-risk patients.


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  • Accepted: 04 June 2012
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