Ultrastructural & mechanical characterisation of the elastic fibre network in the human annulus fibrosus

Author: Vy Bui

Bui, Vy, 2023 Ultrastructural & mechanical characterisation of the elastic fibre network in the human annulus fibrosus, Flinders University, College of Science and Engineering

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Disc degeneration is a condition that leads to low back pain, which is a serious health risk and carries major societal and economic impact. Disc degeneration occurs as a result of changes within the intervertebral disc (IVD), mainly a decrease in the structural integrity of the IVD’s

components. The interlamellar matrix (ILM) has been shown to affect the mechanical properties of the IVD. Elastic fibres (EF) are an important component of the interlamellar matrix, however the details of their contribution to the behaviour of the ILM and the overall annulus fibrosus have not been specified.

This study aims to improve the technique to isolate elastic fibres from the other components of the ILM, allowing for mechanical testing of the EF network. The process involves alkaline treatment using sonication, followed by heat treatment. Results were verified using scanning electron microscopy. An attempt in mechanical testing was also carried out on partially digested samples.

Several factors that may affect the outcome of the digestion protocol were investigated, and an improvement in EF visualisation was achieved. Transition to the mechanical testing phase was deemed possible, although actual tests carried out during this project yielded unsatisfactory results. Further testing is required to fully optimise the digestion protocol and verify that it can be reliably practiced on human ILM samples.

Keywords: interlamellar matrix,elastic fibres,annulus fibrosus,mechanical behaviour

Subject: Medical Biotechnology thesis

Thesis type: Masters
Completed: 2023
School: College of Science and Engineering
Supervisor: John Costi