A riboflavin–ultraviolet light A-crosslinked decellularized heart valve for improved biomechanical properties, stability, and biocompatibility†
Tissue-engineered heart valves are a promising alternative to current valve substitutes. As the main scaffold of tissue-engineered heart valves, the decellularized heart valve (DHV) has problems such as biomechanical property damage and rapid degradation. In this study, we applied a photo-crosslinking reaction induced by riboflavin and ultraviolet light A (UVA) in the DHV for improving its biomechanical properties and stability. The results showed that the biomechanical properties of the DHV significantly improved following riboflavin–UVA (R–UVA) crosslinking. Moreover, the R–UVA-crosslinked DHV (R-UV-DHV) showed better resistance to enzymatic degradation in vitro, with significantly higher thermal denaturation temperature compared to that of the untreated DHV, indicating that the stability of the R-UV-DHV improved. Histological staining and scanning electron microscopy showed that the leaflet ultrastructure was preserved better after R–UVA crosslinking compared to a glutaraldehyde-crosslinked DHV. In addition, we found that the R-UV-DHV exhibited excellent human umbilical vein endothelial cell adhesion and cells could readily grow on its surface. In an in vitro anti-calcification experiment, the R-UV-DHV demonstrated non-calcifying properties in a simulated body fluid. Furthermore, the R-UV-DHV showed characteristics of slow degradation, non-calcification, and reduced pro-inflammatory response through a rat subcutaneous implantation model. As a result, R–UVA can effectively crosslink the DHV and the R-UV-DHV possessed satisfactory biocompatibility. R–UVA crosslinking can be a new approach for improving the performance of the DHV to prepare a better scaffold for tissue-engineered valves.