Mechanical properties of the extra-fibrillar matrix of human annulus fibrosus are location and age dependent

Daniel H. Cortes, Woojin M. Han, Lachlan J. Smith, Dawn M. Elliott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


The mechanical behavior of the annulus fibrosus (AF) of the intervertebral disc can be modeled as a mixture of fibers, extra-fibrillar matrix (EFM), ions, and fluid. However, the properties of the EFM have not been measured directly. We measured mechanical properties of the human EFM at several locations, determined the effect of age and degeneration, and evaluated whether changes in EFM properties correspond to AF compositional changes. EFM mechanical properties were measured using a method that combines osmotic loading and confined compression. AF samples were dissected from several locations, and mechanical properties were correlated with age, degeneration, and composition. EFM modulus was found to range between 10 and 50 kPa, increasing nonlinearly with compression magnitude and being highest in the AF outer-anterior region. EFM properties were not correlated with composition or degeneration. However, the EFM modulus, its relative contribution to tissue modulus, and model parameters were correlated with age. These measurements will result in more accurate predictions of deformations in the intervertebral disc. Additionally, parameters such as permeability and diffusivity used for biotransport analysis of glucose and other solutes depend on EFM deformation. Consequently, the accuracy of biotransport simulations will be greatly improved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1725-1732
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Orthopaedic Research
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • annulus fibrosus
  • extra-fibrillar matrix
  • mechanical properties
  • osmotic pressure


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