New Insights into the Viscoelastic and Failure Mechanical Properties of the Elastic Fiber Network of the Inter-lamellar Matrix in the Annulus Fibrosus of the Disc.

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Abstract

The mechanical role of elastic fibers in the inter-lamellar matrix (ILM) is unknown; however, it has been suggested that they play a role in providing structural integrity to the annulus fibrosus (AF). Therefore, the aim of this study was to measure the viscoelastic and failure properties of the elastic fiber network in the ILM of ovine discs under both tension and shear directions of loading. Utilizing a technique, isolated elastic fibers within the ILM from ovine discs were stretched to 40% of their initial length at three strain rates of 0.1% s −1 (slow), 1% s −1 (medium) and 10% s −1 (fast), followed by a ramp test to failure at 10% s −1 . A significant strain-rate dependent response was found, particularly at the fastest rate for phase angle and normalized stiffness (p < 0.001). The elastic fibers in the ILM demonstrated a significantly higher capability for energy absorption at slow compared to medium and fast strain rates (p < 0.001). These finding suggests that the elastic fiber network of the ILM exhibits nonlinear elastic behavior. When tested to failure, a significantly higher normalized failure force was found in tension compared to shear loading (p = 0.011), which is consistent with the orthotropic structure of elastic fibers in the ILM. The results of this study confirmed the mechanical contribution of the elastic fiber network to the ILM and the structural integrity of the AF. This research serves as a foundation for future studies to investigate the relationship between degeneration and ILM mechanical properties. Statement of Significance: The mechanical role of elastic fibres in the inter-lamellar matrix (ILM) of the disc is unknown. The viscoelastic and failure properties of the elastic fibre network in the ILM in both tension and shear directions of loading was measured for the first time. We found a strain-rate dependent response for the elastic fibres in the ILM. The elastic fibres in the ILM demonstrated a significantly higher capability for energy absorption at slow compared to medium and fast strain rates. When tested to failure, a significantly higher normalized failure force was found in tension compared to shear loading, which is consistent with the orthotropic structure of elastic fibres in the ILM.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)292-300
Number of pages9
JournalActa Biomaterialia
Volume71
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2018

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