Aims: A living heart valve with regeneration capacity based on autologous cells and minimally invasive implantation technology would represent a substantial improvement upon contemporary heart valve prostheses. This study investigates the feasibility of injectable, marrow stromal cell-based, autologous, living tissue engineered heart valves (TEHV) generated and implanted in a one-step intervention in non-human primates.
Methods and results: Trileaflet heart valves were fabricated from non-woven biodegradable synthetic composite scaffolds and integrated into self-expanding nitinol stents. During the same intervention autologous bone marrow-derived mononuclear cells were harvested, seeded onto the scaffold matrix, and implanted transapically as pulmonary valve replacements into non-human primates (n = 6). The transapical implantations were successful in all animals and the overall procedure time from cell harvest to TEHV implantation was 118 ± 17 min. In vivo functionality assessed by echocardiography revealed preserved valvular structures and adequate functionality up to 4 weeks post implantation. Substantial cellular remodelling and in-growth into the scaffold materials resulted in layered, endothelialized tissues as visualized by histology and immunohistochemistry. Biomechanical analysis showed non-linear stress-strain curves of the leaflets, indicating replacement of the initial biodegradable matrix by living tissue.
Conclusion: Here, we provide a novel concept demonstrating that heart valve tissue engineering based on a minimally invasive technique for both cell harvest and valve delivery as a one-step intervention is feasible in non-human primates. This innovative approach may overcome the limitations of contemporary surgical and interventional bioprosthetic heart valve prostheses.