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J Biomech. 2001 Feb;34(2):203-10.

The effect of elastin damage on the mechanics of the aortic valve.

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  • 1Department of Biomedical Engineering, The Cleveland Clinic Foundation, ND 20, 9500 Euclid Avenue, 44195, Cleveland, OH, USA.


Porcine bioprosthetic heart valves degenerate and fail mechanically through a mechanism that is currently not well understood. It has been suggested that damage to the elastin component of prosthetic valve cusps could be responsible for changes in the mechanical function of the valve that would predispose it to increased damage and ultimate failure. To determine whether damage to elastin can produce the structural and mechanical changes that could initiate the process of bioprosthetic valve degeneration, we developed an elastase treatment protocol that fragments elastin and negates its mechanical contribution to the valve tissue. Valve cusps were mechanically tested before and after digestion to measure the mechanical changes resulting from elastin damage. Elastin damage produced a decrease in radial and circumferential extensibility (from 43 to 18% strain radially and 12 to 7% strain circumferentially), with a slight increase in stiffness (1.3-2.6kN/m for radial and 10.6-11.9kN/m for circumferential directions). Digestions with trypsin, which does not cleave elastin, confirmed that the changes in mechanics of the circumferential samples were likely due to the nonspecific removal of proteoglycans by elastase, while the changes in the radial samples were indeed due to elastin damage. Removing the mechanical contribution of elastin alters the mechanical behavior of the aortic valve cusp, primarily in the radial direction. This finding implies that damage to elastin will distend the cusps, reduce their extensibility, and increase their stiffness. Damage to elastin may therefore contribute to the degeneration and failure of prosthetic valves.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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