Mechanical forces are known to affect the biomechanical properties of native and engineered cardiovascular tissue. In particular, shear stress that results from the relative motion of heart valve leaflets with respect to the blood flow is one important component of their mechanical environment in vivo. Although different types of bioreactors have been designed to subject cells to shear stress, devices to expose biological tissue are few. In an effort to address this issue, the aim of this study was to design an ex vivo tissue culture system to characterize the biological response of heart valve leaflets subjected to a well-defined steady or time-varying shear stress environment. The novel apparatus was designed based on a cone-and-plate viscometer. The device characteristics were defined to limit the secondary flow effects inherent to this particular geometry. The determination of the operating conditions producing the desired shear stress profile was streamlined using a computational fluid dynamic (CFD) model validated with laser Doppler velocimetry. The novel ex vivo tissue culture system was validated in terms of its capability to reproduce a desired cone rotation and to maintain sterile conditions. The CFD results demonstrated that a cone angle of , a cone radius of , and a gap of between the cone apex and the plate could limit radial secondary flow effects. The novel cone-and-plate permits to expose nine tissue specimens to an identical shear stress waveform. The whole setup is capable of accommodating four cone-and-plate systems, thus concomitantly subjecting 36 tissue samples to desired shear stress condition. The innovative design enables the tissue specimens to be flush mounted in the plate in order to limit flow perturbations caused by the tissue thickness. The device is capable of producing shear stress rates of up to (i.e., maximum shear stress rate experienced by the ventricular surface of an aortic valve leaflet) and was shown to maintain tissue under sterile conditions for . The novel ex vivo tissue culture system constitutes a valuable tool toward elucidating heart valve mechanobiology. Ultimately, this knowledge will permit the production of functional tissue engineered heart valves, and a better understanding of heart valve biology and disease progression.