In vivo collagen remodeling in the vascular wall of decellularized stented tissue-engineered heart valves

S. Ghazanfari, A. Driessen-Mol, B. Sanders, P.E. Dijkman, S.P. Hoerstrup, F.P.T. Baaijens, C.V.C. Bouten

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Background: Decellularized tissue-engineered heart valves (TEHVs) are under investigation as alternative for current heart valve prostheses with the potential to rapidly repopulate with cells within the body. Ideally, these valves are stented for transapical or minimally invasive delivery. It is unclear if and how the matrix of these valves remodels under in vivo hemodynamic loading conditions and in the presence of a stent. Here, we study the evolution of collagen orientation and tissue maturation in the wall of stented decellularized TEHVs with time after implantation. Methods and Results: In a previous study, stented TEHVs based on rapidly degrading scaffolds were cultured in bioreactors, decellularized, and transapically implanted as pulmonary valve replacement in sheep. In the present study, collagen (re)orientation in the initially isotropic valvular wall was assessed using a fluorescent collagen probe combined with confocal imaging and image analysis of explanted tissue at 8, 16, and 24 weeks following implantation. Collagen tortuosity or waviness in the explants, as a measure of matrix maturity, was quantified using a Gabor wavelet method and compared with tortuosity in native sheep vascular wall tissue. Results indicate that on the luminal side of the valvular wall, fibers became aligned in circumferential direction, while tortuosity increased with implantation time, showing striking similarities with the native collagen structure after 24 weeks. On the outside of the wall, where the engineered tissue touches the stent, collagen fibers in the vicinity of the struts aligned along the struts, whereas collagen fibers in between struts were randomly oriented. Immunohistochemistry was performed to evaluate the presence of elastin and collagen type I and III. After 8 weeks, collagen types I and III were mostly present at the luminal side of the wall, whereas at 16 and 24 weeks, a homogenous distribution of collagen I and III was observed throughout the wall. Elastin was mostly expressed at the luminal side after 24 weeks. Biochemical assays showed that the amount of DNA (as a measure of cell number) increased significantly after 8 and 24 weeks, glycosaminoglycans increased significantly after 8, 16, and 24 weeks, and hydroxyproline, as a measure of collagen amount, increased significantly after 24 weeks compared to the controls. Conclusions: The collagen matrix in the wall of decellularized TEHVs shows clear structural remodeling and maturation with time. While collagen orientation rapidly remodels toward a native anisotropic architecture on the luminal side of the engineered valvular wall, it is dominated and guided by stent geometry on the outer side of the wall. Collagen tortuosity was increased with implantation time and was accompanied by an increase in elastin, especially on the luminal side of the vessel.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2206-2215
Number of pages10
JournalTissue engineering. Part A
Issue number15-16
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2015


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