Affordable Access

Access to the full text

A Robust Multiscale and Multiphasic Structure-Based Modeling Framework for the Intervertebral Disc

  • Zhou, Minhao1
  • Lim, Shiyin1
  • O’Connell, Grace D.1, 2
  • 1 Berkeley Biomechanics Laboratory, Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA , (United States)
  • 2 Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, CA , (United States)
Published Article
Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology
Frontiers Media SA
Publication Date
Jun 07, 2021
DOI: 10.3389/fbioe.2021.685799
  • Bioengineering and Biotechnology
  • Original Research


A comprehensive understanding of multiscale and multiphasic intervertebral disc mechanics is crucial for designing advanced tissue engineered structures aiming to recapitulate native tissue behavior. The bovine caudal disc is a commonly used human disc analog due to its availability, large disc height and area, and similarities in biochemical and mechanical properties to the human disc. Because of challenges in directly measuring subtissue-level mechanics, such as in situ fiber mechanics, finite element models have been widely employed in spinal biomechanics research. However, many previous models use homogenization theory and describe each model element as a homogenized combination of fibers and the extrafibrillar matrix while ignoring the role of water content or osmotic behavior. Thus, these models are limited in their ability in investigating subtissue-level mechanics and stress-bearing mechanisms through fluid pressure. The objective of this study was to develop and validate a structure-based bovine caudal disc model, and to evaluate multiscale and multiphasic intervertebral disc mechanics under different loading conditions and with degeneration. The structure-based model was developed based on native disc structure, where fibers and matrix in the annulus fibrosus were described as distinct materials occupying separate volumes. Model parameters were directly obtained from experimental studies without calibration. Under the multiscale validation framework, the model was validated across the joint-, tissue-, and subtissue-levels. Our model accurately predicted multiscale disc responses for 15 of 16 cases, emphasizing the accuracy of the model, as well as the effectiveness and robustness of the multiscale structure-based modeling-validation framework. The model also demonstrated the rim as a weak link for disc failure, highlighting the importance of keeping the cartilage endplate intact when evaluating disc failure mechanisms in vitro. Importantly, results from this study elucidated important fluid-based load-bearing mechanisms and fiber-matrix interactions that are important for understanding disease progression and regeneration in intervertebral discs. In conclusion, the methods presented in this study can be used in conjunction with experimental work to simultaneously investigate disc joint-, tissue-, and subtissue-level mechanics with degeneration, disease, and injury.

Report this publication


Seen <100 times