The annulus fibrosus (AF) of the intervertebral disk plays a critical role in vertebral load transmission that is heavily dependent on the microscale structure and composition of the tissue. With degeneration, both structure and composition are compromised, resulting in a loss of AF mechanical function. Numerous tissue engineering strategies have addressed the issue of AF degeneration, but few have focused on recapitulation of AF microstructure and function. One approach that allows for generation of engineered AF with appropriate (+/-)30° lamellar microstructure is the use of aligned electrospun scaffolds seeded with mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) and assembled into angle-ply laminates (APL). Previous work indicates that opposing lamellar orientation is necessary for development of near native uniaxial tensile properties. However, most native AF tensile loads are applied biaxially, as the disk is subjected to multi-axial loads and is constrained by its attachments to the vertebral bodies. Thus, the objective of this study was to evaluate the biaxial mechanical response of engineered AF bilayers, and to determine the importance of opposing lamellar structure under this loading regime. Opposing bilayers, which replicate native AF structure, showed a significantly higher modulus in both testing directions compared to parallel bilayers, and reached ∼60% of native AF biaxial properties. Associated with this increase in biaxial properties, significantly less shear, and significantly higher stretch in the fiber direction, was observed. These results provide additional insight into native tissue structure-function relationships, as well as new benchmarks for engineering functional AF tissue constructs.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Orthopedics and Sports Medicine