Artificial aortic valves: An overview

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Abstract

This review discusses strategies that may address some of the limitations associated with replacing diseased or dysfunctional aortic valves with mechanical or tissue valves. These limitations range from structural failure and thromboembolic complications associated with mechanical valves to a limited durability and calcification with tissue valves. In pediatric patients there is an issue with the inability of substitutes to grow with the recipient. The emerging science of tissue engineering potentially provides an attractive alternative by creating viable tissue structures based on a resorbable scaffold. Morphometrically precise, biodegradable polymer scaffolds may be fabricated from data obtained from scans of natural valves by rapid prototyping technologies such as fused deposition modelling. The scaffold provides a mechanical profile until seeded cells produce their own extra cellular matrix. The microstructure of the forming tissue may be aligned into predetermined spatial orientations via fluid transduction in a bioreactor. Although there are many technical obstacles that must be overcome before tissue engineered heart valves are introduced into routine surgical practice these valves have the potential to overcome many of the shortcomings of current heart valve substitutes.

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