A porcine heart valve was irradiated by Ultraviolet (UV) rays (10 W, 254 nm) for 2, 4, 8 and 24 hours at 4°C to cross-link the structural collagen matrix. The degree of cross-linking was evaluated by assaying the released amount of hydroxyproline (Hyp) from the matrix, and comparing it with the positive controls of valves treated by glutaraldehyde (GA) solution (0.625 wt%) and the negative controls of non-treated fresh valves. The undigested weight ratio of the specimens increased by increasing the UV irradiation time. The undigested weight of the leaflets, tunica interna and tunica externa of the fresh, GA-treated and UV-irradiated specimens after collagenase digestion was compared. As UV irradiation increased, the amount of released hydroxyproline was gradually decreased until 8 hours of irradiation, after which the released hydroxyproline-reduction occurred slightly until 24 hours of irradiation time in this system. A total 47.68% of the hydroxyproline in the valve was cross-linked by UV irradiation after 24 hours, while 73.74% of the hydroxyproline in the positive control was crossed-linked. Light microscopic observation revealed that the typical crimp pattern of collagen fibers decreased and was rearranged into a dense flattened pattern as the UV irradiation induced interfibrilar cross-linking. GA-treated valves demonstrated a denser matrix pattern than the UV-irradiated specimens. Cross-linked collagenous tissue prepared by UV irradiation would be useful for improving durability and reducing the disadvantages related to using a chemical cross-linking agent.
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