A major challenge in tissue engineering of heart valves is the in vitro creation of mature tissue structures compliant with the native valve function. Concerning the remodeling capacity of the extracellular matrix (ECM), various cell types have been investigated, including prenatal cells, umbilical cord and vascular derived cells. The pluripotency and availability of human mesenchymal stem cells has made them highly attractive for tissue engineering purposes. However, for clinical use, adult bone marrow derived mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) are suboptimal due to the highly invasive donation procedure, and the decline in MSC number and differentiation potential with increasing age of the patient. Adipose derived stem cells (ADSC) represent an interesting alternative of mesodermal origin. The easy and repeatable access to subcutaneous adipose tissue and the simple isolation procedures provide a clear advantage. Here, we investigate the suitability of ADSC as a novel cell source for tissue engineered heart valves (TEHV). Tissue Engineered (TE) heart valve leaflets (n=6) were produced, based on PGA/P4HB scaffolds seeded with human ADSC isolated from fat tissue excisions from plastic surgery. To stimulate tissue formation and induce matrix alignment, the TE leaflets were cultivated in dynamic strain bioreactors for 4 weeks. We subsequently reseeded the cultivated valves with ADSC derived endothelial cells. Differentiation into endothelial-like cells was induced by cultivation of ADSC in the presence of vascular endothelial growth factor. To determine the ECM composition of the TE leaflets, biochemical analyses for glycosaminoglycans (GAG), hydroxyproline (HYP) and DNA were performed. To further evaluate the microstructural features, tissue samples of TE leaflets were analyzed by stainings as well as by scanning electron microscopy. The mechanical properties of the ADSC derived TE leaflets were analyzed using a biaxial tensile tester. TE leaflets based on ADSC showed a homogenous vital cell distribution throughout the whole leaflet structure and the formation of a confluent endothelial lining. Furthermore, a mechanically stable matrix with GAG and collagen was demonstrated. These results indicate that ADSC represent an interesting alternative autologous mesenchymal human cell source with clinical relevance due to their easy accessibility and excellent proliferation and tissue formation capacities.


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  • Accepted: 04 June 2012
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