Valve reconstruction or regeneration with living tissue is a daunting project for biomedical engineers and surgeons alike. Our translational approach to development of living valve replacements embraces three main principles: a) the accurate replication of each patient’s 3D aortic valve architecture for optimal functionality, b) layered scaffolds that mimic the aortic valve fibrosa, ventricularis and spongiosa to prevent buckling and enhance mechanical durability and c) the presence of autologous, valvular interstitial cells (VICs) to maintain matrix homeostasis. To create anatomically correct constructs, we used digital image processing of patient chest CT images and generated solid aortic valve root 3D structures using a stereo-lithography printer. Collagenous scaffolds to be used as the fibrosa and ventricularis layers were prepared from acellular porcine pericardium and collagen/GAG hydrogels to be used as the spongiosa layer. Layered scaffolds were attached to the molds, dried, stabilized with a non-toxic polyphenolic agent, rehydrated, the spongiosa seeded with human mesenchymal stem cells and valves subjected to functionality tests in a physiological heart valve bioreactor in sterile culture medium. Engineered valves exhibited excellent functional characteristics; most cells were alive, elongated significantly and stained positive for vimentin and actin, among other markers, suggestive of mechanical stimuli-induced stem cell differentiation into VICs. Ongoing studies are focused on endothelialization of the novel valve surfaces using stem cell-derived endothelial cells and rotational 3D seeding devices. In conclusion, autologous stem cell-seeded tri-layered collagenous scaffolds shaped to recapitulate the aortic heart valve shape and mechanics may provide future foundations for patient-tailored heart valve tissue engineering.


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  • Accepted: 04 June 2012
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