As the first section of a multi-part review series, this section provides an overview of the ongoing research and development aimed at fabricating novel heart valve replacements beyond what is currently available for patients. Here we discuss heart valve replacement options that involve a biological component or process for creation, either in vitro or in vivo (tissue-engineered heart valves), and heart valves that are fabricated from polymeric material that are considered permanent inert materials that may suffice for adults where growth is not required. Polymeric materials provide opportunities for cost-effective heart valves that can be more easily manufactured and can be easily integrated with artificial heart and ventricular assist device technologies. Tissue engineered heart valves show promise as a regenerative patient specific model that could be the future of all valve replacement. Because tissue-engineered heart valves depend on cells for their creation, understanding how cells sense and respond to chemical and physical stimuli in their microenvironment is critical and therefore, is also reviewed.