The characterization of the microstructure of the aortic valve for tissue engineering applications
Grande-Allen, K. Jane
Doctor of Philosophy
The aortic valve maintains unidirectional blood flow between the left ventricle and the systemic circulation. When diseased, the valve is replaced either by a mechanical or a bioprosthetic heart valve, that carry issues such as thrombogenesis, long term structural failure, and calcification, necessitating the development of more structurally and biologically sufficient long-term replacements. Tissue engineering provides a possible avenue for development, combining cells, scaffolds, and biochemical factors to regenerate tissue. The overall goal of this dissertation was to create a foundation for the rational design of a tissue engineered aortic valve. The novel approach taken in this thesis research was to view each of the three leaflets as a laminate structure. The first three aims consider the leaflet as a laminate structure comprising of layers of collagen, elastin, and glycosaminoglycans (GAGs). In the first aim, the effect of GAGs on the tensile properties and stress relaxation in the leaflet was investigated, by removing GAGs through increasing amounts of hyaluronidase. A decrease in GAGs led to significantly higher elastic moduli, maximum stresses, and hysteresis in the leaflet. In the second aim, the 3D elastic fiber network of the leaflet was characterized using immunohistochemistry and scanning electron microscopy. This structure was found to have regionally varying thicknesses and patterns. In the third aim, a novel hydrogel-fiber composite design was proposed to match the anisotropy of the leaflet. This composite composed of aligned electrospun poly(ε-caprolactone) (PCL) within a poly(ethylene glycol) diacrylate (PEGDA) matrix. Surface modification and embedding of the PCL did not significantly alter the anisotropy or strength of the underlying PCL scaffold, providing the basis for an anisotropic, biocompatible scaffold. In the last aim, a novel co-culture model was designed using magnetic levitation as a layered structure of valvular endothelial cells and interstitial cells. This technique was used to create co-culture models within hours, while maintaining cell phenotype and function, and inducing extracellular matrix formation, as shown by immunohistochemical stains and their gene expression profiling. The overall result of this dissertation is a clearer understanding of the layered structure-function relationship of the aortic valve, and its application towards heart valve tissue engineering.