Calcific Aortic Valve Disease (CAVD) is the third most common cause of cardiovascular disease, affecting nearly 5 million people in the United States alone. It is now the most common form of acquired valvular disease in industrialized countries and will likely affect more individuals in the coming years as the prevalence increases with life expectancy. It is known that the progression of CAVD is closely related to the behavior of aortic valve interstitial cells (AVICs); however the cellular mechanobiological mechanisms leading to dysfunction remain unclear. Generally, CAVD is characterized by the formation of calcified AVIC aggregates with an apoptotic core. These aggregates increase the leaflet stiffness and impede normal valve function. Multiple studies have investigated the effects of various biochemical cues on this process, such as transformation growth factor β1 (TGF-β1), on the regulation of nodule formation [1]. Additionally, Yip et al revealed that matrix stiffness controls nodule formation in vitro, with stiffer substrates promoting apoptotic nodule formation, while compliant substrates generated nodules containing cells with osteoblast markers [2]. This suggests that matrix stiffness is involved in the regulatory mechanisms of nodule formation and may initiate different types of nodule formation (i.e. osteogenic vs. dystrophic). In the current study, we examined the synergistic role of strain and TGF-β1 in the generation of calcified nodules AVICs.

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