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Concept: Valves


The creation of a living heart valve is a much-wanted alternative for current valve prostheses that suffer from limited durability and thromboembolic complications. Current strategies to create such valves, however, require the use of cells for in vitro culture, or decellularized human- or animal-derived donor tissue for in situ engineering. Here, we propose and demonstrate proof-of-concept of in situ heart valve tissue engineering using a synthetic approach, in which a cell-free, slow degrading elastomeric valvular implant is populated by endogenous cells to form new valvular tissue inside the heart. We designed a fibrous valvular scaffold, fabricated from a novel supramolecular elastomer, that enables endogenous cells to enter and produce matrix. Orthotopic implantations as pulmonary valve in sheep demonstrated sustained functionality up to 12 months, while the implant was gradually replaced by a layered collagen and elastic matrix in pace with cell-driven polymer resorption. Our results offer new perspectives for endogenous heart valve replacement starting from a readily-available synthetic graft that is compatible with surgical and transcatheter implantation procedures.

Concepts: Surgery, Polymer, Implantation, Valvular heart disease, Valve, Valves, Check valve, Ball valve


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


Patients with degraded bioprosthetic heart valves (BHV) who are not candidates for valve replacement may benefit from transcatheter valve-in-valve (VIV) therapy. However, at smaller sized surgical BHV the resultant orifice may become too narrow. To overcome this, the valve frame can be fractured by a high-pressure balloon prior to VIV. However, knowledge on fracture pressures and mechanics are prerequisites. The aim of this study is to identify the fracture pressures needed in BHV, and to describe the fracture mechanics.

Concepts: Fracture, Fracture mechanics, Fractography, Mechanics, Valvular heart disease, Valves, Fracture toughness, Piping


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


Transcatheter mitral valve replacement (TMVR) using balloon-expandable valves has become an alternative therapy for selected patients with mitral valve disease. Up to now, the transapical approach has been the preferred route, but the transseptal approach is becoming increasingly popular due to its reduced invasiveness and increased safety. However, transseptal TMVR procedures are technically challenging, and little is known about the screening process required before this therapy. The authors provide operators with a step-by-step approach from the screening process to follow-up care for transseptal TMVR procedures.

Concepts: Heart, Mitral valve, Mitral regurgitation, Mitral valve prolapse, Mitral stenosis, Valvular heart disease, Valves, Mitral valve replacement


This study assesses the potential relationship between subclinical leaflet thickening and stent frame geometry in patients who underwent aortic valve replacement with a self-expanding transcatheter heart valve (THV).

Concepts: Valvular heart disease, Valves


Tissue engineered scaffolds have emerged as a promising solution for heart valve replacement because of their potential for regeneration. However, traditional heart valve tissue engineering has relied on resource-intensive, cell-based manufacturing, which increases cost and hinders clinical translation. To overcome these limitations, in situ tissue engineering approaches aim to develop scaffold materials and manufacturing processes that elicit endogenous tissue remodeling and repair. Yet despite recent advances in synthetic materials manufacturing, there remains a lack of cell-free, automated approaches for rapidly producing biomimetic heart valve scaffolds. Here, we designed a jet spinning process for the rapid and automated fabrication of fibrous heart valve scaffolds. The composition, multiscale architecture, and mechanical properties of the scaffolds were tailored to mimic that of the native leaflet fibrosa and assembled into three dimensional, semilunar valve structures. We demonstrated controlled modulation of these scaffold parameters and show initial biocompatibility and functionality in vitro. Valves were minimally-invasively deployed via transapical access to the pulmonary valve position in an ovine model and shown to be functional for 15 h.

Concepts: Engineering, Valvular heart disease, Manufacturing, Artificial heart valve, Valves, Synthetic fiber, Heart valve