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Acta Biomater. 2014 Jan;10(1):173-82. doi: 10.1016/j.actbio.2013.09.003. Epub 2013 Sep 11.

A three-dimensional co-culture model of the aortic valve using magnetic levitation.

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Department of Bioengineering, Rice University, Houston, TX 77005, USA; Nano3D Biosciences, Houston, TX 77030, USA.


The aortic valve consists of valvular interstitial cells (VICs) and endothelial cells (VECs). While these cells are understood to work synergistically to maintain leaflet structure and valvular function, few co-culture models of these cell types exist. In this study, aortic valve co-cultures (AVCCs) were assembled using magnetic levitation and cultured for 3 days. Immunohistochemistry and quantitative reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction were used to assess the maintenance of cellular phenotype and function, and the formation of extracellular matrix. AVCCs stained positive for CD31 and α-smooth muscle actin (αSMA), demonstrating that the phenotype was maintained. Functional markers endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS), von Willebrand factor (VWF) and prolyl-4-hydroxylase were present. Extracellular matrix components collagen type I, laminin and fibronectin also stained positive, with reduced gene expression of these proteins in three dimensions compared to two dimensions. Genes for collagen type I, lysyl oxidase and αSMA were expressed less in AVCCs than in 2-D cultures, indicating that VICs are quiescent. Co-localization of CD31 and αSMA in the AVCCs suggests that endothelial-mesenchymal transdifferentiation might be occurring. Differences in VWF and eNOS in VECs cultured in two and three dimensions also suggests that the AVCCs possibly have anti-thrombotic potential. Overall, a co-culture model of the aortic valve was designed, and serves as a basis for future experiments to understand heart valve biology.


3-D cell culture; Aortic valve; Co-culture; Valvular endothelial cells; Valvular interstitial cells

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