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- Journal of Biomechanical Engineering
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- National Science Foundation
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Aging and degeneration of the intervertebral disk are noted by changes in tissue composition and geometry, including a decrease in nucleus pulposus (NP) area. The NP centroid is positioned slightly posterior of the disk's centroid, but the effect of NP size and location on disk joint mechanics is not well understood. We evaluated the effect of NP size and centroid location on disk joint mechanics under dual-loading modalities (i.e., compression in combination with axial rotation or bending). A finite element model (FEM) was developed to vary the relative NP area (NP:Disk area ratio range = 0.21–0.60). We also evaluated the effect of NP position by shifting the NP centroid anteriorly and posteriorly. Our results showed that compressive stiffness and average first principal strains increased with NP size. Under axial compression, stresses are distributed from the NP to the annulus, and stresses were redistributed toward the NP with axial rotation. Moreover, peak stresses were greater for disks with a smaller NP area. NP centroid location had a greater impact on intradiscal pressure during flexion and extension, where peak pressures in the posterior annulus under extension was greater for disks with a more posteriorly situated NP. In conclusion, the findings from this study highlight the importance of closely mimicking NP size and location in computational models that aim to understand stress/strain distribution during complex loading and for developing repair strategies that aim to recapitulate the mechanical behavior of healthy disks.more » « less
Water content is a key parameter for simulating tissue swelling and nutrient diffusion. Accurately measuring water content throughout the intervertebral disc (NP = nucleus pulposus; AF = annulus fibrosus) is important for developing patient‐specific models. Water content is measured using destructive techniques, Quantitative MRI has been used to estimate water content and detect early degeneration, but it is dependent on scan parameters, concentration of free water molecules, and fiber architecture.
To directly measure disc‐tissue water content using quantitative MRI and compare MRI‐based measurements with biochemical assays, and to quantify changes in disc geometry due to compression.
Basic science, controlled.
Twenty bone‐disc‐bone motion segments from skeletally mature bovines.
7T/3D fast low angle shot (FLASH) pulse sequence and a T2rapid imaging with refocused echoes (RARE) sequence.
Disc volumes, NP and AF volumetric water content, and T2relaxation times were measured through MRI; NP and AF tissue gravimetric water content, mass density, and glycosaminoglycan content were measured through a biochemical assay.
Correlations between MRI‐based measurement and biochemical composition were evaluated using Pearson's linear regression.
Mechanical dehydration resulted in a decrease in disc volume by up to 20% and a decrease in disc height by up to 35%. Direct water content measurements for the NP was achieved by normalizing MRI‐based spin density by NP mass density (1.10 ± 0.03 g/cm3). However, the same approach underestimated water content in the AF by ~10%, which may be due to a higher concentration of collagen fibers and bound water molecules.
Spin density or spin density normalized by mass density to estimate NP and AF water content was more accurate than correlations between water content and relaxation times. Mechanical dehydration decreased disc volume and disc height, and increased maximum cross‐sectional area.
Level of Evidence Technical Efficacy Stage
J. Magn. Reson. Imaging 2020;52:1152–1162.
In vitro mechanical testing of intervertebral discs is crucial for basic science and pre‐clinical testing. Generally, these tests aim to replicate in vivo conditions, but simplifications are necessary in specimen preparation and mechanical testing due to complexities in both structure and the loading conditions required to replicate in vivo conditions. There has been a growing interest in developing a consensus of testing protocols within the spine community to improve comparison of results between studies. The objective of this study was to perform axial compression experiments on bovine bone‐disc‐bone specimens at three institutions. No differences were observed between testing environment being air, with PBS soaked gauze, or a PBS bath (
P> .206). A 100‐fold increase in loading rate resulted in a small (2%) but significant increase in compressive mechanics ( P< .017). A 7% difference in compressive stiffness between Labs B and C was eliminated when values were adjusted for test system compliance. Specimens tested at Lab A, however, were found to be stiffer than specimens from Lab B and C. Even after normalizing for disc geometry and adjusting for system compliance, an ∼35% difference was observed between UK based labs (B and C) and the USA based lab (A). Large differences in specimen stiffness may be due to genetic differences between breeds or in agricultural feed and use of growth hormones; highlighting significant challenges in comparing mechanics data across studies. This research provides a standardized test protocol for the comparison of spinal specimens and provides steps towards understanding how location and test set‐up may affect biomechanical results.
While it is well known that mechanical signals can either promote or disrupt intervertebral disc (IVD) homeostasis, the molecular mechanisms for transducing mechanical stimuli are not fully understood. The transient receptor potential vanilloid 4 (TRPV4) ion channel activated in isolated IVD cells initiates extracellular matrix (ECM) gene expression, while TRPV4 ablation reduces cytokine production in response to circumferential stretching. However, the role of TRPV4 on ECM maintenance during tissue‐level mechanical loading remains unknown. Using an organ culture model, we modulated TRPV4 function over both short‐ (hours) and long‐term (days) and evaluated the IVDs' response. Activating TRPV4 with the agonist GSK101 resulted in a Ca2+flux propagating across the cells within the IVD. Nuclear factor (NF)‐κB signaling in the IVD peaked at 6 h following TRPV4 activation that subsequently resulted in higher interleukin (IL)‐6 production at 7 days. These cellular responses were concomitant with the accumulation of glycosaminoglycans and increased hydration in the nucleus pulposus that culminated in higher stiffness of the IVD. Sustained compressive loading of the IVD resulted in elevated NF‐κB activity, IL‐6 and vascular endothelial growth factor A (VEGFA) production, and degenerative changes to the ECM. TRPV4 inhibition using GSK205 during loading mitigated the changes in inflammatory cytokines, protected against IVD degeneration, but could not prevent ECM disorganization due to mechanical damage in the annulus fibrosus. These results indicate TRPV4 plays an important role in both short‐ and long‐term adaptations of the IVD to mechanical loading. The modulation of TRPV4 may be a possible therapeutic for preventing load‐induced IVD degeneration.
Abstract The intervertebral disc is a complex structure that experiences multiaxial stresses regularly. Disc failure through herniation is a common cause of lower back pain, which causes reduced mobility and debilitating pain, resulting in heavy socioeconomic burdens. Unfortunately, herniation etiology is not well understood, partially due to challenges in replicating herniation in vitro. Previous studies suggest that flexion elevated risks of herniation. Thus, the objective of this study was to use a multiscale and multiphasic finite element model to evaluate the risk of failure under torque- or muscle-driven flexion. Models were developed to represent torque-driven flexion with the instantaneous center of rotation (ICR) located on the disc, and the more physiologically representative muscle-driven flexion with the ICR located anterior of the disc. Model predictions highlighted disparate disc mechanics regarding bulk deformation, stress-bearing mechanisms, and intradiscal stress–strain distributions. Specifically, failure was predicted to initiate at the bone-disc boundary under torque-driven flexion, which may explain why endplate junction failure, instead of herniation, has been the more common failure mode observed in vitro. By contrast, failure was predicted to initiate in the posterolateral annulus fibrosus under muscle-driven flexion, resulting in consistent herniation. Our findings also suggested that muscle-driven flexion combined with axial compression could be sufficient for provoking herniation in vitro and in silico. In conclusion, this study provided a computational framework for designing in vitro testing protocols that can advance the assessment of disc failure behavior and the performance of engineered disc implants.more » « less