Engineering natural heart valves: possibilities and challenges

Heart valve replacement is considered to be the most prevalent treatment approach for cardiac valve-related diseases. Among current solutions for heart valve replacement, e.g. mechanical and bioprosthetic valves, the main shortcoming is the lack of growth capability, repair and remodelling of the substitute valve. During the past three decades, tissue engineering-based approaches have shown tremendous potential to overcome these limitations by the development of a biodegradable scaffold, which provides biomechanical and biochemical properties of the native tissue. Among various scaffolds employed for tissue engineering, the decellularized heart valve (DHV) has attracted much attention, due to its native structure as well as comparable haemodynamic characteristics. Although the human DHV has shown optimal properties for valve replacement, the limitation of valve donors in terms of time and size is their main clinical issue. In this regard, xenogenic DHV can be a promising candidate for heart valve replacement. Xenogenic DHVs have similar composition to human valves, which will overcome the need for human DHVs. The main concern regarding xenogeneic DHV replacement is the immunological reaction and calcification following implantation, weak mechanical properties and insufficient recellularization capacity. In this review, we describe the essential steps required to address these impediments through novel engineering approaches. Copyright (C) 2016 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.


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