Structure and mechanical function of the inter-lamellar matrix of the annulus fibrosus in the disc

Javad Tavakoli, Dawn Elliott, John Costi

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

    53 Citations (Scopus)


    The inter-lamellar matrix (ILM) has an average thickness of less than 30 µm and lies between adjacent lamellae in the annulus fibrosus (AF). The microstructure and composition of the ILM have been studied in various anatomic regions of the disc; however, their contribution to AF mechanical properties and structural integrity is unknown. It was suggested that the ILM components, mainly elastic fibers and cross-bridges, play a role in providing mechanical integrity of the AF. Therefore, the manner in which they respond to different loadings and stabilize adjacent lamellae structure will influence AF tear formation and subsequent herniation. This review paper summarizes the composition, microstructure, and potential role of the ILM in the progression of disc herniation, clarifies the micromechanical properties of the ILM, and proposes critical areas for future studies. There are a number of unknown characteristics of the ILM, such as its mechanical role, impact on AF integrity, and ultrastructure of elastic fibers at the ILM-lamella boundary. Determining these characteristics will provide important information for tissue engineering, repair strategies, and the development of more-physiological computational models to study the initiation and propagation of AF tears that lead to herniation and degeneration.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1307-1315
    Number of pages9
    JournalJournal of Orthopaedic Research
    Issue number8
    Early online date2016
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2016


    • annulus fibrosus
    • cross-bridges
    • elastic fibers
    • inter-lamellar matrix


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