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J Orthop Res. 2007 Apr;25(4):508-16.

Quantifying the contributions of structure to annulus fibrosus mechanical function using a nonlinear, anisotropic, hyperelastic model.

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McKay Orthopaedic Research Laboratory, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104, USA.


The annulus fibrosus of the intervertebral disc is comprised of concentric lamella of oriented collagen fibers embedded in a hydrated proteoglycan matrix with smaller amounts of minor collagens, elastin, and small proteoglycans. Its structure and composition enable the disc to withstand complex loads and result in inhomogeneous, anisotropic, and nonlinear mechanical behaviors. The specific contributions of the annulus fibrosus constituent structures to mechanical function remain unclear. Therefore, the objective of this study was to use a structurally motivated, anisotropic, nonlinear strain energy model of annulus fibrosus to determine the relative contributions of its structural components to tissue mechanical behavior. A nonlinear, orthotropic hyperelastic model was developed for the annulus fibrosus. Terms to describe fibers, matrix, and interactions between annulus fibrosus structures (shear and normal to the fiber directions) were explicitly included. The contributions of these structures were analyzed by including or removing terms and determining the effect on the fit to multidimensional experimental data. Correlation between experimental and model-predicted stress, a Bland-Altman analysis of bias and standard deviation of residuals, and the contribution of structural terms to overall tissue stress were calculated. Both shear and normal interaction terms were necessary to accurately model multidimensional behavior. Inclusion of shear interactions more accurately described annulus fibrosus nonlinearity. Fiber stretch and shear interactions dominated contributions to circumferential direction stress, while normal and shear interactions dominated axial stress. The results suggest that interactions between fibers and matrix, perhaps facilitated by crosslinks, elastin, or minor collagens, augment traditional (i.e., fiber-uncrimping) models of nonlinearity.

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