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Tissue Eng Part C Methods. 2015 Dec;21(12):1284-96. doi: 10.1089/ten.TEC.2015.0170.

Functional Heart Valve Scaffolds Obtained by Complete Decellularization of Porcine Aortic Roots in a Novel Differential Pressure Gradient Perfusion System.

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1 Biocompatibility and Tissue Regeneration Laboratories, Department of Bioengineering, Clemson University , Clemson, South Carolina.
2 Tissue Bioengineering Laboratory, Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, Mississippi State University , Starkville, Mississippi.
3 Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine Laboratory, Department of Anatomy, University of Medicine and Pharmacy , Targu Mures, Romania .
4 Cardiovascular Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine Laboratory, Department of Bioengineering, Clemson University , Clemson, South Carolina.


There is a great need for living valve replacements for patients of all ages. Such constructs could be built by tissue engineering, with perspective of the unique structure and biology of the aortic root. The aortic valve root is composed of several different tissues, and careful structural and functional consideration has to be given to each segment and component. Previous work has shown that immersion techniques are inadequate for whole-root decellularization, with the aortic wall segment being particularly resistant to decellularization. The aim of this study was to develop a differential pressure gradient perfusion system capable of being rigorous enough to decellularize the aortic root wall while gentle enough to preserve the integrity of the cusps. Fresh porcine aortic roots have been subjected to various regimens of perfusion decellularization using detergents and enzymes and results compared to immersion decellularized roots. Success criteria for evaluation of each root segment (cusp, muscle, sinus, wall) for decellularization completeness, tissue integrity, and valve functionality were defined using complementary methods of cell analysis (histology with nuclear and matrix stains and DNA analysis), biomechanics (biaxial and bending tests), and physiologic heart valve bioreactor testing (with advanced image analysis of open-close cycles and geometric orifice area measurement). Fully acellular porcine roots treated with the optimized method exhibited preserved macroscopic structures and microscopic matrix components, which translated into conserved anisotropic mechanical properties, including bending and excellent valve functionality when tested in aortic flow and pressure conditions. This study highlighted the importance of (1) adapting decellularization methods to specific target tissues, (2) combining several methods of cell analysis compared to relying solely on histology, (3) developing relevant valve-specific mechanical tests, and (4) in vitro testing of valve functionality.

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