Over the last few years, research interest in tissue engineering as an alternative for current treatment and replacement strategies for cardiovascular and heart valve diseases has significantly increased. In vitro mechanical conditioning is an essential tool for engineering strong implantable tissues [1]. Detailed knowledge of the mechanical properties of the native tissue as well as the properties of the developing engineered constructs is vital for a better understanding and control of the mechanical conditioning process. The nonlinear and anisotropic behavior of soft tissues puts high demands on their mechanical characterization. Current standards in mechanical testing of soft tissues include (multiaxial) tensile testing and indentation tests. Uniaxial tensile tests do not provide sufficient information for characterizing the full anisotropic material behavior, while biaxial tensile tests are difficult to perform, and boundary effects limit the test region to a small central portion of the tissue. In addition, characterization of the local tissue properties from a tensile test is non-trivial. Indentation tests may be used to overcome some of these limitations. Indentation tests are easy to perform and when indenter size is small relative to the tissue dimensions, local characterization is possible. We have demonstrated that by recording deformation gradients and indentation force during a spherical indentation test the anisotropic mechanical behavior of engineered cardiovascular constructs can be characterized [2]. In the current study this combined numerical-experimental approach is used on Tissue Engineered Heart Valves (TEHV).

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