Aortic valve calcification leads to the deposition of calcium phosphate minerals in the extracellular matrix of the aortic valve leaflets. The mineral deposits can severely narrow the opening of the aortic valve, leading to aortic stenosis. There are no therapies to halt or slow down disease progression and the mechanisms governing aortic valve calcification are still poorly understood. Recently, several studies have shown that for the same aortic stenosis severity, women present significantly lower calcification loads than men. The cause of this sex-related difference is unknown. To understand this difference, we analyzed mineral deposits from surgically excised calcified human aortic valves with different material characterization techniques. We find profound differences in mineral composition and morphology between sexes, which strongly suggest that minerals form slower in women than in men and follow a different mineralization pathway. This finding paves the way for new approaches specifically geared towards men or women in the diagnosis and treatment of aortic valve calcification. Statement of significance Aortic valve calcification is a health disorder with increasing prevalence and high morbidity and mortality. Currently there is no approved effective treatment; the only available therapeutic option is invasive valve replacement, to which not all patients are suited. The main reason for such lack of treatment options is our lack of understanding of the calcification mechanism. In this study, we show profound differences in mineral composition and morphology between sexes, suggesting that aortic valve calcification follows different mineralization pathways in men and women. These findings pave the way for new approaches specifically geared towards men or women in the diagnosis and treatment of aortic valve calcification.
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