Valve Interstitial Cells: The Key to Understanding the Pathophysiology of Heart Valve Calcification
Aortic valve stenosis due to calcification of the valve leaflets is the most common valve disease in the developed world. It is the third leading cause of cardiovascular disease.1 Risk factors include male gender, smoking, diabetes mellitus, hypertension, high levels of circulating lipids, and metabolic syndrome.2 Calcification was earlier believed to be a passive degenerative process, but it is now recognized as an active disease process driven by the cells native to the aortic valve.3, 4 The only option for treatment is heart surgery with implantation of a valve prosthesis. The heart valve prostheses are either mechanical, requiring life‐long anticoagulation treatment, or based on biological material, which will degenerate and calcify after 10 to 15 years. Implantation of heart valve prostheses has been characterized as “replacing one disease with another.” Understanding the cellular and molecular processes behind valve calcification may possibly lead to nonsurgical treatment.
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This is an open access article, originally published at https://doi.org/10.1161/JAHA.117.006339