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Tri-layered Elastomeric Scaffolds for Engineering Heart Valve Leaflets
Tissue engineered heart valves (TEHVs) that can grow and remodel have the potential to serve as permanent replacements of the current non-viable prosthetic valves particularly for pediatric patients. A major challenge in designing functional TEHVs is to mimic both structural and anisotropic mechanical characteristics of the native valve leaflets. To establish a more biomimetic model of TEHV, we fabricated tri-layered scaffolds by combining electrospinning and microfabrication techniques. These constructs were fabricated by assembling microfabricated poly(glycerol sebacate) (PGS) and fibrous PGS/poly(caprolactone) (PCL) electrospun sheets to develop elastic scaffolds with tunable anisotropic mechanical properties similar to the mechanical characteristics of the native heart valves. The engineered scaffolds supported the growth of valvular interstitial cells (VICs) and mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) within the 3D structure and promoted the deposition of heart valve extracellular matrix (ECM). MSCs were also organized and aligned along the anisotropic axes of the engineered tri-layered scaffolds. In addition, the fabricated constructs opened and closed properly in an ex vivo model of porcine heart valve leaflet tissue replacement. The engineered tri-layered scaffolds have the potential for successful translation towards TEHV replacements.