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J Card Surg. 1991 Dec;6(4):454-61.

Immunogenicity, antigenicity, and endothelial viability of aortic valves preserved at 4 degrees C in a nutrient medium.

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Section of Thoracic Surgery, University of Michigan School of Medicine, Ann Arbor.


In patients undergoing aortic valve replacement, allograft valves stored at 4 degrees C in a nutrient medium have been associated with excellent immediate and long-term results. The effects of this method of prolonged storage on the antigenic, immunological and cellular characteristics of these grafts are incompletely understood. This study was designed to study these phenomena in rat aortic valves subjected to antibiotic sterilization and stored for up to 3 weeks in RPMI containing 10% fetal calf serum. Selected valves from Brown Norway rats were implanted heterotopically into the abdominal aorta of Lewis rats. Other valves were studied prior to transplantation. Antigenicity was determined by immunocytochemical staining using monoclonal mouse antibodies directed at Class I and Class II rat antigens. Immunogenicity was determined by duration of second-set skin graft survival following heterotopic aortic valve implant. Endothelial cell viability was determined by flow cytometric analysis of endothelial cells harvested from aortic valve allografts by collagenase digestion. Only fresh valves and valves stored for 1 day were positive for Class I antigens; no valves were positive for Class II antigens. Duration of skin graft survival was prolonged with greater duration of storage, but grafts remained immunogenic after 21 days of storage. Endothelial cell viability declined from 95% in the fresh valves to 64% after 21 days of storage. With prolonged duration of allograft valve storage at 4 degrees C, there is an attenuation of antigenicity, immunogenicity, and endothelial cell viability. Loss of endothelial cells may contribute to the changes in immunological responses to the valve allografts. The expression of antigens on the endothelial surface is not a reliable predictor of immunological response.

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