, Volume 34, Issue 11, pp 1655-1665,
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An Ex Vivo Study of the Biological Properties of Porcine Aortic Valves in Response to Circumferential Cyclic Stretch

Abstract

Normal physiological mechanical forces cause constant tissue renewal in aortic valve leaflets (AVL) while altered mechanical forces incite changes in their structural and biological properties. The current study aims at characterizing the remodeling properties of AVL subjected to cyclic circumferential stretch in a sterile ex vivo bioreactor. The leaflets cultured were stretched at a maximum rate of 300%s−1 corresponding to a 15% strain for 48 h. Collagen, sulfated glycosaminoglycan (sGAG), and elastin contents of the stretched, fresh, and statically incubated leaflets were measured. Cusp morphology and cell phenotype were also examined. AVLs exposed to cyclic stretch showed a significant increase in collagen content (p < 0.05) when compared to fresh and statically incubated AVLs. sGAG content was significantly reduced in the stretched AVLs (p < 0.05) when compared to the fresh leaflets and was comparable between stretched and statically incubated AVLs. There was no statistically significant change in elastin content in all the three groups of AVLs (p > 0.05). Native aortic valve morphology was well preserved in stretched leaflets. Immunohistochemistry and immunoblotting studies showed an increased expression of α-smooth muscle actin (α-SMA) in stretched leaflets while α-SMA expression was reduced in statically incubated AVLs when compared to the fresh leaflets. To conclude, circumferential cyclic stretch altered the extracellular matrix remodeling activity of valvular cells, and consequently the extracellular matrix composition of the AVLs. Most interestingly, the contractile and fibrotic phenotypic expression of valve interstitial cells was enhanced. These results show that circumferential cyclic stretch is a possible mediator for AVL remodeling activity.