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For treatment of critical heart valve diseases, prosthetic valves perform fairly well in most adults; however, for pediatric patients, there is the added requirement that the replacement valve grows with the child, thus extremely limiting current treatment options. Tissue engineered heart valves (TEHV), such as those derived from autologous bone marrow stem cells (BMSCs), have the potential to recapitulate native valve architecture and accommodate somatic growth. However, a fundamental pre-cursor in promoting directed integration with native tissues rather than random, uncontrolled growth requires an understanding of BMSC mechanobiological responses to valve-relevant mechanical environments. Here, we report on the responses of human BMSC-seeded polymer constructs to the valve-relevant stress states of: (i) steady flow alone, (ii) cyclic flexure alone, and (iii) the combination of cyclic flexure and steady flow (flex-flow). BMSCs were seeded onto a PGA: PLLA polymer scaffold and cultured in static culture for 8 days. Subsequently, the aforementioned mechanical conditions, (groups consisting of steady flow alone-850ml/min, cyclic flexure alone-1 Hz, and flex-flow-850ml/min and 1 Hz) were applied for an additional two weeks. We found samples from the flex-flow group exhibited a valve-like distribution of cells that expressed endothelial (preference to the surfaces) and myofibroblast (preference to the intermediate region) phenotypes. We interpret that this was likely due to the presence of both appreciable fluid-induced shear stress magnitudes and oscillatory shear stresses, which were concomitantly imparted onto the samples. These results indicate that flex-flow mechanical environments support directed in vitro differentiation of BMSCs uniquely towards a heart valve phenotype, as evident by cellular distribution and expression of specific gene markers. A priori guidance of BMSC-derived, engineered tissue growth under flex-flow conditions may serve to subsequently promote controlled, engineered to native tissue integration processes in vivo necessary for successful long-term valve remodeling.


This article was originally published in PLOS One

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