Structure-function characterization of the transition zone in the intervertebral disc

Melika Mirzaeipoueinak, Haim S. Mordechai, Saie Sunil Bangar, Mirit Sharabi*, Joanne L. Tipper, Javad Tavakoli

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Understanding the structure-function relationship in the intervertebral disk (IVD) is crucial for the development of novel tissue engineering strategies to regenerate IVD and the establishment of accurate computational models for low back pain research. A large number of studies have improved our knowledge of the mechanical and structural properties of the nucleus pulposus (NP) and annulus fibrosus (AF), two of the main regions in the IVD. However, few studies have focused on the AF-NP interface (transition zone; TZ). Therefore, the current study aims to, for the first time, characterize the cyclic and failure mechanical properties of the TZ region under physiological loading (1, 3, and 5%s−1 strain rates) and investigate the structural integration mechanisms between the NP, TZ, and AF regions. The results of the current study reveal significant effects of region (NP, TZ, and AF) and strain rates (1, 3, and 5%s−1) on stiffness (p < 0.001). In addition, energy absorption is significantly higher for the AF compared to the TZ and NP (p <0.001) as well as between the TZ and NP (p <0.001). The current research finds adaptation, direct penetration, and entanglement between TZ and AF fibers as three common mechanisms for structural integration between the TZ and AF regions. Statement of significance: Despite a large number of studies that have mechanically, structurally, and biologically characterized the nucleus pulposus (NP) and annulus fibrosus (AF) regions, few studies have focused on the NP-AF interface region (known as Transition Zone; TZ) in the IVD; hence, our understanding of the TZ structure-function relationship is still incomplete. Of particular importance, the cyclic mechanical properties of the TZ, compared to the adjacent regions (NP and AF), are yet to be explored and the precise nature of the structural integration between the NP and AF via the TZ region is not yet known. The current study explores both the mechanical and structural properties of the TZ region to ultimately identify the mechanism of integration between the NP and AF.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)164-175
Number of pages12
JournalActa Biomaterialia
Volume160
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2023
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Energy absorption
  • Intervertebral disk
  • Stiffness
  • Structural integration
  • Structure-function relationship
  • TZ collagen fibers
  • TZ elastic fibers
  • Transition zone

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