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Freystetter, Benedikt; Grab, Maximilian; Grefen, Linda; Bischof, Lara; Isert, Lorenz; Mela, Petra; Bezuidenhout, Deon; Hagl, Christian and Thierfelder, Nikolaus (2022): Combining 3D-Printing and Electrospinning to Manufacture Biomimetic Heart Valve Leaflets. In: Jove, No. 181, e63604

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Electrospinning has become a widely used technique in cardiovascular tissue engineering as it offers the possibility to create (micro-)fibrous scaffolds with adjustable properties. The aim of this study was to create multilayered scaffolds mimicking the architectural fiber characteristics of human heart valve leaflets using conductive 3D-printed collectors. Models of aortic valve cusps were created using commercial computer-aided design (CAD) software. Conductive polylactic acid was used to fabricate 3D-printed leaflet templates. These cusp negatives were integrated into a specifically designed, rotating electrospinning mandrel. Three layers of polyurethane were spun onto the collector, mimicking the fiber orientation of human heart valves. Surface and fiber structure was assessed with a scanning electron microscope (SEM). The application of fluorescent dye additionally permitted the microscopic visualization of the multilayered fiber structure. Tensile testing was performed to assess the biomechanical properties of the scaffolds. 3D-printing of essential parts for the electrospinning rig was possible in a short time for a low budget. The aortic valve cusps created following this protocol were three-layered, with a fiber diameter of 4.1 +/- 1.6 mu m. SEM imaging revealed an even distribution of fibers. Fluorescence microscopy revealed individual layers with differently aligned fibers, with each layer precisely reaching the desired fiber configuration. The produced scaffolds showed high tensile strength, especially along the direction of alignment.

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