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1.  On the Biomechanical Role of Glycosaminoglycans in the Aortic Heart Valve Leaflet 
Acta biomaterialia  2012;9(1):4653-4660.
While the role of collagen and elastin fibrous components in heart valve valvular biomechanics has been extensively investigated [see Sacks et al. 2009 J. Biomech. 42, 1804-24], the biomechanical role of the glycosaminoglycan (GAG) gelatinous-like material phase remains unclear. In the present study, we investigated the biomechanical role of GAGs in porcine aortic valve (AV) leaflets under tension utilizing enzymatic removal. Tissue specimens were removed from the belly region of porcine AVs and subsequently treated with either an enzyme solution for GAG removal, or a control (buffer with no enzyme) solution. A dual stress level test methodology was used to determine the effects at low and high (physiological) stress levels). In addition, planar biaxial tests were conducted both on-axis (i.e. aligned to the circumferential and radial axes) and at 45° off-axis to induce maximum shear, to explore the effects of augmented fiber rotations on the fiber-fiber interactions. Changes in hysteresis were used as the primary metric of GAG functional assessment. A simulation of the low force experimental setup was also conducted to clarify the internal stress system and provide viscoelastic model parameters fo this loading range. Results indicated that under planar tension the removal of GAGs had no measureable affect extensional mechanical properties (either on- or 45° off-axis) including peak stretch, hysteresis, or creep. Interestingly, in the low force range, hysteresis was markedly reduced from 35.96 ± 2.65% in control group to 25.00 ± 1.64% (p < 0.001) as a result of GAG removal. Collectively, these results suggest that GAGs do not play a direct role in modulating the time-dependent tensile properties of valvular tissues. Rather, they appear to be strongly connected with fiber-fiber and fiber-matrix interactions at low forces levels. Thus, we speculate that GAGs may be important in providing a damping mechanism to reduce leaflet flutter when the leaflet is not under high tensile stress.
doi:10.1016/j.actbio.2012.09.031
PMCID: PMC3508081  PMID: 23036945
Glycosaminoglycan; Heart valve; Mechanical properties; Mechanical test

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