J Biomech Eng. 2022 Jun 14. doi: 10.1115/1.4054799. Online ahead of print.
The annulus fibrosus is the ring-like exterior of the intervertebral disc which is composed of concentrically organized layers of collagen fibre bundles. The mechanical properties of the annulus have been studied extensively; however, tests are typically performed on extracted fragments or multilayered samples of the annulus and not on the annulus as a whole. The purpose of this study was two-fold: 1) to develop a novel testing technique to measure the mechanical properties of the intact, isolated annulus; and 2) to perform a preliminary analysis of the rate-dependency of these mechanical properties. Twenty-nine whole annulus ring samples were dissected from 11 skeletally mature Sprague Dawley rat tails and underwent a tensile failure test at either 2%/s (n=16) or 20%/s (n=13). Force and displacement were sampled at 100Hz and were subsequently normalized to stress and strain. Various mechanical properties were derived from the stress-strain curves and statistically compared between the rates. All mechanical variables, with the exception of initial failure stress, were found to be unaffected by rate. Interestingly, initial failure stress was higher for samples tested at the slower rate compared to the higher rate which is atypical for viscoelastic tissues. Although in general rate did not appear to impact the annulus ring response to tensile loading, this novel, intact annular ring testing technique provides an alternative way to quantify mechanical properties of the annulus.