Bovine and degenerated human annulus fibrosus: a microstructural and micromechanical comparison
Biomechanics and Modeling in Mechanobiology
© The Author(s) 2017. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.
The complex structure of the annulus fibrosus is strongly related to its mechanical properties. Recent work showed that it is possible to observe the relative movement of fibre bundles in loaded cow tail annulus; the aim of this work was to describe and quantify annulus fibrosus micromechanics in degenerated human disc, and compare it with cow tail annulus, an animal model often used in the literature. Second harmonic generation was used to image the collagen matrix in twenty strips of annulus fibrosus harvested from intervertebral disc of seven patients undergoing surgery. Samples were loaded to 6% tensile strain in 1% steps. Elastic modulus was calculated from loading curves, and micromechanical strains were calculated from the images using custom software. The same protocol was applied to twenty strips of annulus harvested from cow tail discs. Significant morphological differences were found between human and cow tail samples, the most striking being the lack of collagen fibre crimp in the former. Fibres were also observed bending and running from one lamella to the other, forming a strong flexible interface. Interdigitation of fibre bundles was also present at this interface. Quantitative results show complex patterns of inter-bundle and inter-lamellar behaviour, with inter-bundle sliding being the main strain mechanism. Elastic modulus was similar between species, and it was not affected by the degree of degeneration. This work gives an insight into the complex structure and mechanical function of the annulus fibrosus, which should be accounted for in disc numerical modelling.
The authors are grateful to the Henry Smith Charity for funding and to Fay Manning for the artwork and to the NIHR Exeter Clinical Research Facility for facilitating human sample collection.
This is the final version of the article. Available from Springer Verlag via the DOI in this record.
First Online: 04 April 2017