Unraveling the mechanobiology of tissue growth in native and tissue-engineered heart valves


The incidence and prevalence of valvular heart disease are increasing worldwide, and present a major economic burden to the European healthcare system. Current valve replacements are life-saving devices, but are associated with serious drawbacks due to the fact that they cannot grow, remodel, or repair. Younger patients particularly suffer from these disadvantages. Tissue engineering has been anticipated to revolutionize current valve replacement therapies, as the creation of living valve replacements presents these engineered valves with the intrinsic ability to grow and adapt in response to their hemodynamic environment. A deep mechanistic understanding of this growth potential is essential to ensure the long-term functionality and adequate adaptation potential of these tissue-engineered valves. The present project aims for developing computational models to understand and predict the growth of valves, with specific emphasis on understanding the natural growth profiles of native human valves and predicting and optimizing the growth potential of tissue-engineered valves. As mechanical factors are known to be important drivers of cardiovascular growth, the first objective of this project is to identify the most important mechanical trigger for valve growth in native human valves. The second objective consists of developing computational models that incorporate the responsible biological mechanisms for growth by integrating the fields of mechanics and biology, in order to understand the responsible biological mechanisms involved in mechanically-induced valve growth.

Funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 654513.