Clinically available graft prostheses as treatment for congenital heart disease lack the capacity to grow, and thus inherently require repetitive and high-risk surgical interventions during childhood. Therefore, in our group, we aim to develop novel tissue engineered heart valves and vascular grafts that can adapt to the somatic growth of the patient.
In several projects, we currently investigate two promising approaches, namely cardiovascular replacements that are derived from either in-vitro engineered decellularized homologous ECM or (functionalized) synthetic biodegradable polymers. Both approaches enable off-the-shelf availability, without requiring a human or an animal graft as starter material, therewith eliminating the shortage of donor tissues and the risk for xenogenic rejection or disease transmission. Additionally, both approaches exploit the regenerative capacity of the body to remodel and form new tissue upon orthotopic implantation, by recruiting endogenous (circulating) cells. Last but not least, when compared to the classic tissue engineering methods, the so-called in-situ approach represent a less complex and potentially less costly alternative to produce off-the-shelf available implants that are designed to become viable and therewith bare the capacity to adapt to the somatic growth of the patient, eliminating the need for reoperations.