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Synchrotron Tomographic Measurement of Strain in Soft Tissue: Native Intervertebral Disc Deformation at Histological Resolution

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Document pages: 33 pages

Abstract: The intervertebral disc (IVD) has a complex and multiscale extracellular matrix structure which provides unique mechanical properties to withstand physiological loading. Low back pain has been linked to degeneration of the disc but reparative treatments are not currently available. Characterising the disc’s 3D microstructure and its response in a physiologically relevant loading environment is required to improve understanding of degeneration and to develop new reparative treatments. In this study, techniques for imaging the native IVD, measuring internal deformation and mapping volumetric strain were applied to a compressed spine segment. Synchrotron X-ray micro-tomography (sCT) was used to resolve IVD structures at histological resolution. These image data enabled 3D quantification of collagen bundle orientation and measurement of local displacement in the annulus fibrosus between sequential scans using digital volume correlation (DVC). The volumetric strain mapped from sCT provided a detailed insight into the micromechanics of native IVD tissue. The DVC findings showed that there was no slipping at lamella boundaries, and local strain patterns were of a similar distribution to the previously reported elastic network with some heterogeneous areas and maximum strain direction aligned with bundle orientation, suggesting bundle stretching and sliding. This method has the potential to bridge the gap between measures of macro-mechanical properties and the local 3D micro-mechanical environment experienced by cells. This is the first evaluation of strain at the micro scale level in the intact IVD and provides a quantitative framework for future IVD degeneration mechanics studies and testing of tissue engineered IVD replacements.

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