Atrioventricular heart valves (AHVs) are composed of structurally complex and morphologically heterogeneous leaflets. The coaptation of these leaflets during the cardiac cycle facilitates unidirectional blood flow. Valve regurgitation is treated preferably by surgical repair if possible or replacement based on the disease state of the valve tissue. A comprehensive understanding of valvular morphology and mechanical properties is crucial to refining computational models, serving as a patient-specific diagnostic and surgical tool for preoperative planning. Previous studies have modeled the stress distribution throughout the leaflet's thickness, but validations with layer-specific biaxial mechanical experiments are missing. In this study, we sought to fill this gap in literature by investigating the impact of microstructure constituents on mechanical behavior throughout the thickness of the AHVs' anterior leaflets. Porcine mitral valve anterior leaflets (MVAL) and tricuspid valve anterior leaflets (TVAL) were micro-dissected into three layers (atrialis/spongiosa, fibrosa, and ventricular) and two layers (atrialis/spongiosa and fibrosa/ventricularis), respectively, based on their relative distributions of extracellular matrix components as quantified by histological analyses: collagen, elastin, and glycosaminoglycans. Our results suggest that (i) for both valves, the atrialis/spongiosa layer is the most extensible and anisotropic layer, possibly due to its relatively low collagen content as compared to other layers, (ii) the intact TVAL response is stiffer than the atrialis/spongiosa layer but more compliant than the fibrosa/ventricularis layer, and (iii) the MVAL fibrosa and ventricularis layers behave nearly isotropic. These novel findings emphasize the biomechanical variances throughout the AHV leaflets, and our results could better inform future AHV computational model developments. STATEMENT OF SIGNIFICANCE: This study, which is the first of its kind for atrioventricular heart valve (AHV) leaflet tissue layers, rendered a mechanical characterization of the biaxial mechanical properties and distributions of extracellular matrix components (collagen, elastin, and glycosaminoglycans) of the mitral and tricuspid valve anterior leaflet layers. The novel findings from the present study emphasize the biomechanical variances throughout the thickness of AHV leaflets, and our results indicate that the previously-adopted homogenous leaflet in the AHV biomechanical modeling may be an oversimplification of the complex leaflet anatomy. Such improvement in the understanding of valvular morphology and tissue mechanics is crucial to future refinement of AHV computational models, serving as a patient-specific diagnostic and surgical tool, at the preoperative stage, for treating valvular heart diseases.
Keywords: Biaxial mechanical testing; Extracellular matrix; Micro-dissection; Morphological analysis; The mitral and tricuspid valves; Valve tissue biomechanics.
Copyright © 2019 Acta Materialia Inc. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.