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Concept: Valves


OBJECTIVE: Calcific aortic valve disease (CAVD) is a major public health problem with no effective treatment available other than surgery. We previously showed that mature heart valves calcify in response to retinoic acid (RA) treatment through downregulation of the SRY transcription factor Sox9. In this study, we investigated the effects of excess vitamin A and its metabolite RA on heart valve structure and function in vivo and examined the molecular mechanisms of RA signaling during the calcification process in vitro. METHODS AND RESULTS: Using a combination of approaches, we defined calcific aortic valve disease pathogenesis in mice fed 200 IU/g and 20 IU/g of retinyl palmitate for 12 months at molecular, cellular, and functional levels. We show that mice fed excess vitamin A develop aortic valve stenosis and leaflet calcification associated with increased expression of osteogenic genes and decreased expression of cartilaginous markers. Using a pharmacological approach, we show that RA-mediated Sox9 repression and calcification is regulated by classical RA signaling and requires both RA and retinoid X receptors. CONCLUSIONS: Our studies demonstrate that excess vitamin A dietary intake promotes heart valve calcification in vivo. Therefore suggesting that hypervitaminosis A could serve as a new risk factor of calcific aortic valve disease in the human population.

Concepts: Gene, In vitro, Aortic valve, Retinol, Vitamin A, Valvular heart disease, Valves, Aortic valve stenosis


The concept/phenomenon of valve prosthesis/patient mismatch (VP-PM), described in 1978, has stood the test of time. From that time to 2011, VP-PM has received a great deal of attention but studies have come to varying conclusions. This is largely because of the determination of prosthetic heart valve area [called effective orifice area index (EOAi)] by projection rather than by actual measurement, variable criteria to assess severity of EOAi and the timing of determination of EOAi. All prosthetic heart valves have some degree of VP-PM which must be placed in a proper clinical perspective. This can be done by determining its effects on function and outcomes. For mortality one needs to focus especially on severe/critical degree of VP-PM and determine the cause of death was due to VP-PM. For the period “beyond 2011” a road map is suggested that will have uniformity of assessment of VP-PM and a focusing on the important goals of VP-PM.

Concepts: Focusing, Artificial heart valve, Valves, Heart valve


Surgical replacement of the pulmonary valve (PV) is a common treatment option for congenital pulmonary valve defects. Engineered tissue approaches to develop novel PV replacements are intrinsically complex, and will require methodical approaches for their development. Single leaflet replacement utilizing an ovine model is an attractive approach in that candidate materials can be evaluated under valve level stresses in blood contact without the confounding effects of a particular valve design. In the present study an approach for optimal leaflet shape design based on finite element (FE) simulation of a mechanically anisotropic, elastomeric scaffold for PV replacement is presented. The scaffold was modeled as an orthotropic hyperelastic material using a generalized Fung-type constitutive model. The optimal shape of the fully loaded PV replacement leaflet was systematically determined by minimizing the difference between the deformed shape obtained from FE simulation and an ex-vivo microCT scan of a native ovine PV leaflet. Effects of material anisotropy, dimensional changes of PV root, and fiber orientation on the resulting leaflet deformation were investigated. In-situ validation demonstrated that the approach could guide the design of the leaflet shape for PV replacement surgery.

Concepts: Blood, Engineering, Continuum mechanics, Materials science, Young's modulus, Valves, Structural analysis, Constitutive equation


Non-vitamin K oral anticoagulants (NOACs) are currently recommended for patients with nonvalvular atrial fibrillation since the publication of the 4 major pivotal trials evaluating the efficacy and safety of factor IIa and factor Xa inhibitors. The definition of nonvalvular atrial fibrillation is unclear, varying from one trial to another and even between North American and European guidelines, which is a source of uncertainties in clinical practice. However, many patients with atrial fibrillation present signs of valvular involvement, and clarification of this term is needed to not deny NOACs to patients based on the wrong perception that they may have valvular atrial fibrillation. The currently unique contraindications to NOACs are patients with mechanical heart valves and those with moderate-to-severe mitral stenosis, as stated by the recent 2015 position paper of the European Heart Rhythm Association. Patients with native heart valve involvement, regardless of their severity, are suitable for NOAC therapy. Patients with bioprosthetic heart valves and mitral valve repair may be suitable for NOACs except for the first 3 and the first 3-6 months postoperatively, respectively. Patients with transaortic valve implantation or percutaneous transluminal aortic valvuloplasty are also considered as being eligible for NOACs, although the bleeding risk has to be carefully considered in this population often requiring a combination with antiplatelet therapy. Future studies are warranted to increase the level of evidence of use of NOACs, particularly in patients with transaortic valve implantation and valvular surgery, and to determine whether they could be used in the future in the only 2 remaining contraindications.

Concepts: Cardiology, Heart, Atrial fibrillation, Warfarin, Mitral valve, Mitral valve prolapse, Mitral stenosis, Valves


Advanced tissue engineered heart valves must be constructed from multiple materials to better mimic the heterogeneity found in the native valve. The trilayered structure of aortic valves provides the ability to open and close consistently over a full human lifetime, with each layer performing specific mechanical functions. The middle spongiosa layer consists primarily of proteoglycans and glycosaminoglycans, providing lubrication and dampening functions as the valve leaflet flexes open and closed. In this study, hyaluronan hydrogels were tuned to perform the mechanical functions of the spongiosa layer, provide a biomimetic scaffold in which valve cells were encapsulated in 3D for tissue engineering applications, and gain insight into how valve cells maintain hyaluronan homeostasis within heart valves. Expression of the HAS1 isoform of hyaluronan synthase was significantly higher in hyaluronan hydrogels compared to blank-slate poly(ethylene glycol) diacrylate (PEGDA) hydrogels. Hyaluronidase and matrix metalloproteinase enzyme activity was similar between hyaluronan and PEGDA hydrogels, even though these scaffold materials were each specifically susceptible to degradation by different enzyme types. KIAA1199 was expressed by valve cells and may play a role in the regulation of hyaluronan in heart valves. Cross-linked hyaluronan hydrogels maintained healthy phenotype of valve cells in 3D culture and were tuned to approximate the mechanical properties of the valve spongiosa layer. Therefore, hyaluronan can be used as an appropriate material for the spongiosa layer of a proposed laminate tissue engineered heart valve scaffold.

Concepts: Gene expression, Enzyme, Extracellular matrix, Engineering, Artificial heart valve, Valves, Hyaluronan


Right bundle branch block is an established predictor for new conduction disturbances and need for a permanent pacemaker (PPM) after transcatheter aortic valve replacement. The aim of the study was to evaluate the absolute rates of transcatheter aortic valve replacement related PPM implantations in patients with pre-existent right bundle branch block and categorize for different transcatheter heart valves.

Concepts: Cardiac electrophysiology, Cardiac anatomy, Cardiac pacemaker, Valvular heart disease, Valves, Bundle of His


Prosthetic heart valve (PHV) dysfunction is rare but potentially life-threatening. Although often challenging, establishing the exact cause of PHV dysfunction is essential to determine the appropriate treatment strategy. In clinical practice, a comprehensive approach that integrates several parameters of valve morphology and function assessed with 2D/3D transthoracic and transoesophageal echocardiography is a key to appropriately detect and quantitate PHV dysfunction. Cinefluoroscopy, multidetector computed tomography, cardiac magnetic resonance imaging, and to a lesser extent, nuclear imaging are complementary tools for the diagnosis and management of PHV complications. The present document provides recommendations for the use of multimodality imaging in the assessment of PHVs.

Concepts: Heart, Medical imaging, Radiography, Magnetic resonance imaging, Virtopsy, Artificial heart valve, Valves, Heart valve


Patient-self-management (PSM) of oral anticoagulant therapy with vitamin K antagonists for mechanical heart valves has demonstrated efficacy in randomized controlled trials. However, the effectiveness of PSM in clinical practice has only been investigated in small trials. Our aim was to evaluate the effectiveness of PSM of oral anticoagulant therapy in mechanical heart valve patients.

Concepts: Cohort study, Epidemiology, Clinical trial, Randomized controlled trial, Warfarin, Artificial heart valve, Valves, Heart valve


Heart valve development proceeds through coordinated steps by which endocardial cushions (ECs) form thin, elongated, and stratified valves. Wnt signaling and its canonical effector β-catenin are proposed to contribute to endocardial-to-mesenchymal transformation (EMT) through postnatal steps of valvulogenesis. However, genetic redundancy and lethality have made it challenging to define specific roles of the canonical Wnt pathway at different stages of valve formation. We developed a transgenic mouse system that provides spatiotemporal inhibition of Wnt/β-catenin signaling by chemically-inducible overexpression of Dkk1. Unexpectedly, this approach indicates canonical Wnt signaling is required for EMT in the proximal outflow tract (pOFT) but not atrioventricular canal (AVC) cushions. Further, Wnt indirectly promotes pOFT EMT through its earlier activity in neighboring myocardial cells or their progenitors. Subsequently, Wnt/β-catenin signaling is activated in cushion mesenchymal cells where it supports FGF-driven expansion of ECs and then AVC valve extracellular matrix patterning. Mice lacking Axin2, a negative Wnt regulator, have larger valves, suggesting that accumulating Axin2 in maturing valves represents negative feedback that restrains tissue overgrowth rather than simply reporting Wnt activity. Disruption of these Wnt/β-catenin signaling roles that enable developmental transitions during valvulogenesis could account for common congenital valve defects.

Concepts: Gene expression, Extracellular matrix, Cardiac muscle, Feedback, Negative feedback, Valves, Wnt signaling pathway, Endocarditis


Semilunar valve leaflets have a well-described trilaminar histoarchitecture, with a sophisticated elastic fiber network. It was previously proposed that elastin-containing fibers play a subordinate role in early human cardiac valve development; however, this assumption was based on data obtained from mouse models and human second and third trimester tissues. Here, we systematically analyzed tissues from human fetal first (4-12 weeks) and second (13-18 weeks) trimester, adolescent (14-19 years) and adult (50-55 years) hearts to monitor the temporal and spatial distribution of elastic fibers, focusing on semilunar valves. Global expression analyses revealed that the transcription of genes essential for elastic fiber formation starts early within the first trimester. These data were confirmed by quantitative PCR and immunohistochemistry employing antibodies that recognize fibronectin, fibrillin 1, 2 and 3, EMILIN1 and fibulin 4 and 5, which were all expressed at the onset of cardiac cushion formation (∼week 4 of development). Tropoelastin/elastin protein expression was first detectable in leaflets of 7-week hearts. We revealed that immature elastic fibers are organized in early human cardiovascular development and that mature elastin-containing fibers first evolve in semilunar valves when blood pressure and heartbeat accelerate. Our findings provide a conceptual framework with the potential to offer novel insights into human cardiac valve development and disease.

Concepts: Gene expression, Blood, Mitral valve prolapse, Artificial heart valve, Valves, Heart valve, Fibrillin