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Anisotropic strain transfer through the aortic valve and its relevance to the cellular mechanical environment

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Aortic valve interstitial cells are responsible for maintaining the valve in response to their local mechanical environment. However, the complex organization of the extracellular matrix means cell strains cannot be directly derived from gross strains, and knowledge of tissue structure-function correlations is fundamental towards understanding mechanotransduction. This study investigates strain transfer through the valve, hypothesizing that organization of the valve matrix leads to non-homogenous local strains. Radial and circumferential samples were cut from aortic valve leaflets and subjected to quasi-static mechanical characterization. Further samples were imaged using confocal microscopy, to determine local strains in the matrix. Mechanical data demonstrated that the valve was significantly stronger and stiffer when loaded circumferentially, comparable with previous studies. Micromechanical studies demonstrated that strain transfer through the matrix is anisotropic and indirect, with local strains consistently smaller than applied strains in both orientations. Under radial loading, strains were transferred linearly to cells. However, under circumferential loading, strains were only one-third of applied values, with a less direct relationship between applied and local strains. This may result from matrix reorganization, and be important for preventing cellular damage during normal valve function. These findings should be taken into account when investigating interstitial cell behaviours, such as cell metabolism and mechanotransduction.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)821-830
JournalProceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Part H: Journal of Engineering in Medicine
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2011


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