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J Heart Valve Dis. 1996 May;5(3):343-7.

Formaldehyde replaces glutaraldehyde in porcine bioprosthetic heart valves.

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Department of Pathology, Royal Haltamshire Hospital, Sheffield, United Kingdom.



In the production of porcine bioprostheses, the initial glutaraldehyde treatment is often followed by a short incubation in formaldehyde to ensure sterility of the valve. It is assumed that the glutaraldehyde cross links are stable and that the formaldehyde step does not alter the glutaraldehyde incorporated. The objective of this study was to determine whether the formaldehyde interacts with the tissue to cause changes in the glutaraldehyde composition.


Two methods of tissue treatment were investigated: (i) fresh porcine leaflet tissue was treated with glutaraldehyde, followed by storage in formaldehyde, (ii) tissue processed in glutaraldehyde and transferred to formaldehyde for six hours was returned to glutaraldehyde for storage. The content of the two aldehydes was estimated by high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), using an adaptation of the method developed by Hughes et al, which measures the acid labile Schiff bases formed between the collagen and the aldehyde.


The initial content of glutaraldehyde in the tissue declined from 63 +/- 10 nmol/mg dry weight to 21 +/- 4 nmol/mg dry weight when the leaflets were placed in formaldehyde for 24 hours. The initial uptake of formaldehyde was 800 +/- 144 nmol/mg dry weight after 24 hours and this declined to 370 +/- 33 nmol/mg dry weight over a 16 week period of storage in formaldehyde. By this stage, the level of glutaraldehyde had decreased to 2.4 +/- 0.2 nmol/mg dry weight. There was a sharp decline in the glutaraldehyde concentration from 89 +/- 6 nmol/mg dry weight to 14 +/- 1 nmol/mg dry weight when the tissue was placed in 4% formaldehyde solution for six hours. The formaldehyde uptake was 770 +/- 54 nmol/mg dry weight. After return to 0.625% glutaraldehyde solution the formaldehyde concentration declined whilst the glutaraldehyde concentration initially increased.


These results show that the formaldehyde reacts with the epsilon amino groups of lysine which had not reacted with glutaraldehyde, probably for steric reasons; and that formaldehyde replaces some glutaraldehyde in the tissue by a mass action effect. The tissue concentration of both aldehydes subsequently declined over the study period.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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