Elastic, permeability and swelling properties of human intervertebral disc tissues: A benchmark for tissue engineering

Daniel H. Cortes, Nathan T. Jacobs, John F. DeLucca, Dawn M. Elliott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

73 Scopus citations


The aim of functional tissue engineering is to repair and replace tissues that have a biomechanical function, i.e., connective orthopaedic tissues. To do this, it is necessary to have accurate benchmarks for the elastic, permeability, and swelling (i.e., biphasic-swelling) properties of native tissues. However, in the case of the intervertebral disc, the biphasic-swelling properties of individual tissues reported in the literature exhibit great variation and even span several orders of magnitude. This variation is probably caused by differences in the testing protocols and the constitutive models used to analyze the data. Therefore, the objective of this study was to measure the human lumbar disc annulus fibrosus (AF), nucleus pulposus (NP), and cartilaginous endplates (CEP) biphasic-swelling properties using a consistent experimental protocol and analyses. The testing protocol was composed of a swelling period followed by multiple confined compression ramps. To analyze the confined compression data, the tissues were modeled using a biphasic-swelling model, which augments the standard biphasic model through the addition of a deformation-dependent osmotic pressure term. This model allows considering the swelling deformations and the contribution of osmotic pressure in the analysis of the experimental data. The swelling stretch was not different between the disc regions (AF: 1.28±0.16; NP: 1.73±0.74; CEP: 1.29±0.26), with a total average of 1.42. The aggregate modulus (Ha) of the extra-fibrillar matrix was higher in the CEP (390kPa) compared to the NP (100kPa) or AF (30kPa). The permeability was very different across tissue regions, with the AF permeability (64 E-16m4/Ns) higher than the NP and CEP (~5.5 E-16m4/Ns). Additionally, a normalized time-constant (3000s) for the stress relaxation was similar for all the disc tissues. The properties measured in this study are important as benchmarks for tissue engineering and for modeling the disc's mechanical behavior and transport.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2088-2094
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Biomechanics
Issue number9
StatePublished - Jun 27 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biophysics
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Rehabilitation


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