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A crucial factor in tissue engineering of heart valves is the functional and physiologic scaffold design. In our current experiment, we describe a new fabrication technique for heart valve scaffolds, derived from x-ray computed tomography data linked to the rapid prototyping technique of stereolithography. To recreate the complex anatomic structure of a human pulmonary and aortic homograft, we have used stereolithographic models derived from x-ray computed tomography and specific software (CP, Aachen, Germany). These stereolithographic models were used to generate biocompatible and biodegradable heart valve scaffolds by a thermal processing technique. The scaffold forming polymer was a thermoplastic elastomer, a poly-4-hydroxybutyrate (P4HB) and a polyhydroxyoctanoate (PHOH) (Tepha, Inc., Cambridge, MA). We fabricated one human aortic root scaffold and one pulmonary heart valve scaffold. Analysis of the heart valve included functional testing in a pulsatile bioreactor under subphysiological and supraphysiological flow and pressure conditions. Using stereolithography, we were able to fabricate plastic models with accurate anatomy of a human valvular homograft. Moreover, we fabricated heart valve scaffolds with a physiologic valve design, which included the sinus of Valsalva, and that resembled our reconstructed aortic root and pulmonary valve. One advantage of P4HB and PHOH was the ability to mold a complete trileaflet heart valve scaffold from a stereolithographic model without the need for suturing. The heart valves were tested in a pulsatile bioreactor, and it was noted that the leaflets opened and closed synchronously under subphysiological and supraphysiological flow conditions. Our preliminary results suggest that the reproduction of complex anatomic structures by rapid prototyping techniques may be useful to fabricate custom made polymeric scaffolds for the tissue engineering of heart valves.


Ralf Sodian, Matthias Loebe, Andreas Hein, David P Martin, Simon P Hoerstrup, Evgenij V Potapov, Harald Hausmann, Tim Lueth, Roland Hetzer. Application of stereolithography for scaffold fabrication for tissue engineered heart valves. ASAIO journal (American Society for Artificial Internal Organs : 1992). 2002 Jan-Feb;48(1):12-6

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PMID: 11814091

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