Next generation enabling technologies and scaffold designs for heart valve tissue engineering.

Carlijn Bouten, TU Eindhoven

Progress in the field of heart valve tissue engineering (HVTE) has been highly dependent on the development of technologies that enable the culture, characterization, and visualization of engineered valves. To this end bioreactors for optimizing and monitoring tissue mechanical properties, pulse duplicators for functionality testing, and assays for in-vitro structure-function analysis have been developed. With the advances in HVTE, in particular the recent conceptual shift towards in-situ HVTE, the demands and requirements of enabling technologies have changed drastically.

Concomitant with the transition of in-vitro culture to in-situ tissue engineering, emphasis has shifted towards the design and optimization of cell-free, resorbable scaffolds, being either synthetic or biological in nature. Computational modeling has disruptively changed our modes of valvular scaffold design, while synthetic materials and material processing techniques are being optimized to harness the innate host response and to accommodate neo-tissue formation, growth and remodeling in-vivo. At the same time, bioreactor development and in-vitro culture evolve towards engineered biomimicking models for improved understanding of cell-scaffold interactions and neo-tissue formation under healthy and pathophysiological conditions. These and other advances will aid in our ongoing quest for novel and more personalized therapies to treat heart valve diseases.