Heart valve disease is a serious and growing public health problem for which prosthetic replacement is most commonly indicated. Current prosthetic devices are inadequate for younger adults and growing children. Tissue engineered living aortic valve conduits have potential for remodeling, regeneration, and growth, but fabricating natural anatomical complexity with cellular heterogeneity remain challenging. In the current study, we implement 3D bioprinting to fabricate living alginate/gelatin hydrogel valve conduits with anatomical architecture and direct incorporation of dual cell types in a regionally constrained manner. Encapsulated aortic root sinus smooth muscle cells (SMC) and aortic valve leaflet interstitial cells (VIC) were viable within alginate/gelatin hydrogel discs over 7 days in culture. Acellular 3D printed hydrogels exhibited reduced modulus, ultimate strength, and peak strain reducing slightly over 7-day culture, while the tensile biomechanics of cell-laden hydrogels were maintained. Aortic valve conduits were successfully bioprinted with direct encapsulation of SMC in the valve root and VIC in the leaflets. Both cell types were viable (81.4 ± 3.4% for SMC and 83.2 ± 4.0% for VIC) within 3D printed tissues. Encapsulated SMC expressed elevated alpha-smooth muscle actin, while VIC expressed elevated vimentin. These results demonstrate that anatomically complex, heterogeneously encapsulated aortic valve hydrogel conduits can be fabricated with 3D bioprinting.
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