Styrene-based block copolymers are promising materials for the development of a polymeric heart valve prosthesis (PHV), and the mechanical properties of these polymers can be tuned via the manufacturing process, orienting the cylindrical domains to achieve material anisotropy. The aim of this work is the development of a computational tool for the optimization of the material microstructure in a new PHV intended for aortic valve replacement to enhance the mechanical performance of the device. An iterative procedure was implemented to orient the cylinders along the maximum principal stress direction of the leaflet. A numerical model of the leaflet was developed, and the polymer mechanical behavior was described by a hyperelastic anisotropic constitutive law. A custom routine was implemented to align the cylinders with the maximum principal stress direction in the leaflet for each iteration. The study was focused on valve closure, since during this phase the fibrous structure of the leaflets must bear the greatest load. The optimal microstructure obtained by our procedure is characterized by mainly circumferential orientation of the cylinders within the valve leaflet. An increase in the radial strain and a decrease in the circumferential strain due to the microstructure optimization were observed. Also, a decrease in the maximum value of the strain energy density was found in the case of optimized orientation; since the strain energy density is a widely used criterion to predict elastomer's lifetime, this result suggests a possible increase of the device durability if the polymer microstructure is optimized. The present method represents a valuable tool for the design of a new anisotropic PHV, allowing the investigation of different designs, materials, and loading conditions.

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