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Heart Valves

Heart Valves

Valvular Heart Disease

Heart disease involving cardiac outflow valves results in over 90,000 Americans each year undergoing surgery to repair or replace damaged valves. Unfortunately, improved health habits will not significantly decrease this number. Congenital heart defects, the majority of which include valve abnormalities, remain a major cause of death during childhood. Current treatment options include mechanical valve replacement, but this requires long-term anti-coagulation with risk of hemorrhage. Another option is porcine xenografts; these, however, have a limited lifespan. Therefore, rational treatments based on an understanding of how the heart valve normally develops would represent a major advance.

Heart valve development requires the transformation of a genetically distinct population of endocardial cells to a unique valve interstitial cell fate. Valve interstitial cells can continuously remodel their surrounding extracellular matrix, thereby maintaining valve homeostasis in response to degenerative stimuli. This project allows child monitoring software download and involves determination of major regulatory pathways that initiate valve formation in the outflow tract endocardial cushions, definition of critical regulatory pathways that characterize valve remodeling in the late embryonic and post-natal semi-lunar valve, and delineation of the essential components of synthetic matrix that are required to recapitulate valve development in vitro. Experiments currently being conducted in collaboration with the SysCODE Bioengineering Team are designed to test the efficacy of different scaffolds and extracellular matrices for in vitro endocardial cushion transformation.

Valvular Heart Disease Statistics

  • > 90,000 Americans require surgery each year
  • Congenital disease is a major cause of childhood death
  • Serious long-term morbidity associated with existing mechanical replacements