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1.  Expression of dual Nucleotides/Cysteinyl-Leukotrienes Receptor GPR17 in early trafficking of cardiac stromal cells after myocardial infarction 
GPR17 is a Gi-coupled dual receptor activated by uracil-nucleotides and cysteinyl-leukotrienes. These mediators are massively released into hypoxic tissues. In the normal heart, GPR17 expression has been reported. By contrast, its role in myocardial ischaemia has not yet been assessed. In the present report, the expression of GPR17 was investigated in mice before and at early stages after myocardial infarction by using immunofluorescence, flow cytometry and RT-PCR. Before induction of ischaemia, results indicated the presence of the receptor in a population of stromal cells expressing the stem-cell antigen-1 (Sca-1). At early stages after ligation of the coronary artery, the receptor was expressed in Sca-1+ cells, and cells stained with Isolectin-B4 and anti-CD45 antibody. GPR17+ cells also expressed mesenchymal marker CD44. GPR17 function was investigated in vitro in a Sca-1+/CD31− cell line derived from normal hearts. These experiments showed a migratory function of the receptor by treatment with UDP-glucose and leukotriene LTD4, two GPR17 pharmacological agonists. The GPR17 function was finally assessed in vivo by treating infarcted mice with Cangrelor, a pharmacological receptor antagonist, which, at least in part, inhibited early recruitment of GPR17+ and CD45+ cells. These findings suggest a regulation of heart-resident mesenchymal cells and blood-borne cellular species recruitment following myocardial infarction, orchestrated by GPR17.
doi:10.1111/jcmm.12305
PMCID: PMC4196654  PMID: 24909956
myocardial ischaemia; cardiac stromal cell; GPR17; Cysteinyl-Leukotrienes; myofibroblasts
2.  Mechanical Compliance and Immunological Compatibility of Fixative-Free Decellularized/Cryopreserved Human Pericardium 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e64769.
Background
The pericardial tissue is commonly used to produce bio-prosthetic cardiac valves and patches in cardiac surgery. The procedures adopted to prepare this tissue consist in treatment with aldehydes, which do not prevent post-graft tissue calcification due to incomplete xeno-antigens removal. The adoption of fixative-free decellularization protocols has been therefore suggested to overcome this limitation. Although promising, the decellularized pericardium has not yet used in clinics, due to the absence of proofs indicating that the decellularization and cryopreservation procedures can effectively preserve the mechanical properties and the immunologic compatibility of the tissue.
Principal Findings
The aim of the present work was to validate a procedure to prepare decellularized/cryopreserved human pericardium which may be implemented into cardiovascular homograft tissue Banks. The method employed to decellularize the tissue completely removed the cells without affecting ECM structure; furthermore, uniaxial tensile loading tests revealed an equivalent resistance of the decellularized tissue to strain, before and after the cryopreservation, in comparison with the fresh tissue. Finally, immunological compatibility, showed a minimized host immune cells invasion and low levels of systemic inflammation, as assessed by tissue transplantation into immune-competent mice.
Conclusions
Our results indicate, for the first time, that fixative-free decellularized pericardium from cadaveric tissue donors can be banked according to Tissue Repository-approved procedures without compromising its mechanical properties and immunological tolerance. This tissue can be therefore treated as a safe homograft for cardiac surgery.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0064769
PMCID: PMC3660606  PMID: 23705010
3.  Characterization of Porcine Aortic Valvular Interstitial Cell ‘Calcified’ Nodules 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(10):e48154.
Valve interstitial cells populate aortic valve cusps and have been implicated in aortic valve calcification. Here we investigate a common in vitro model for aortic valve calcification by characterizing nodule formation in porcine aortic valve interstitial cells (PAVICs) cultured in osteogenic (OST) medium supplemented with transforming growth factor beta 1 (TGF-β1). Using a combination of materials science and biological techniques, we investigate the relevance of PAVICs nodules in modeling the mineralised material produced in calcified aortic valve disease. PAVICs were grown in OST medium supplemented with TGF-β1 (OST+TGF-β1) or basal (CTL) medium for up to 21 days. Murine calvarial osteoblasts (MOBs) were grown in OST medium for 28 days as a known mineralizing model for comparison. PAVICs grown in OST+TGF-β1 produced nodular structures staining positive for calcium content; however, micro-Raman spectroscopy allowed live, noninvasive imaging that showed an absence of mineralized material, which was readily identified in nodules formed by MOBs and has been identified in human valves. Gene expression analysis, immunostaining, and transmission electron microscopy imaging revealed that PAVICs grown in OST+TGF-β1 medium produced abundant extracellular matrix via the upregulation of the gene for Type I Collagen. PAVICs, nevertheless, did not appear to further transdifferentiate to osteoblasts. Our results demonstrate that ‘calcified’ nodules formed from PAVICs grown in OST+TGF-β1 medium do not mineralize after 21 days in culture, but rather they express a myofibroblast-like phenotype and produce a collagen-rich extracellular matrix. This study clarifies further the role of PAVICs as a model of calcification of the human aortic valve.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0048154
PMCID: PMC3482191  PMID: 23110195

Results 1-3 (3)