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You are here: Contents > 2006 > Volume 15 Number 1 January 2006 > AORTIC VALVE DISEASE > Histological Evaluation of Autophagic Cell Death in Calcified Aortic Valve Stenosis

Histological Evaluation of Autophagic Cell Death in Calcified Aortic Valve Stenosis

Pamela Somers, Michiel Knaapen, Mark Kockx, Philip van Cauwelaert, Hilde Bortier, Wilhelm Mistiaen

Departments of Pathology and Cardiovascular Surgery, Middelheim Hospital Antwerp, Antwerp, Human Anatomy and Embryology, University of Antwerp, Antwerp, Dept. Healthcare Sciences, Hogeschool, Antwerpen, Belgium

Background and aim of the study: Calcification in aortic valves is the most common valvular lesion in western populations. This event is correlated with cellular degeneration in the valvular cusps, although there is no exact evidence how these cells die: this requires further exploration.
Methods: Twelve human severely calcified aortic valves obtained during cardiac surgery were studied by semi-quantitative analysis, and results compared with data from 12 human control aortic valves obtained during autopsy. Tissue analysis was by hematoxylin and eosin and Alcian blue staining. Detection of neurons was by immunohistochemical staining of PGP9.5 and neurofilament. In order to detect autophagy, an immunohistochemical staining for ubiquitin was used. The TUNEL technique was used to detect apoptosis. Co-localization of Alizarin red with ubiquitin labeling was performed on non-decalcified aortic valves.
Results: Hematoxylin and eosin staining showed

moderate to severe mineralization in 10 of 12 patients in the surgical group, but in only one of 12 in the autopsy group. No significant observations were made with regard to PGP9.5 and neurofilament staining. Moderate to severe ubiquitin labeling was found initially in the majority of the surgical resection group (9/12) compared to a minority in the autopsy group (1/12). TUNEL-positive labeling was very rare and found mostly at the endothelial layer of the valvular cusps.
Conclusion: Immunohistochemical methods showed the main cell death mechanism involved in the calcification of aortic leaflets to be autophagy rather than apoptosis. These findings suggest that autophagic cell death might play a role in the release of matrix vesicles in early degenerative aortic valves, thereby attracting inflammatory cells, and this could eventually lead to mineralization.
The Journal of Heart Valve Disease 2006;15:43-48

Histological Evaluation of Autophagic Cell Death in Calcified Aortic Valve Stenosis

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