In vivo rodent tail models are becoming more widely used for exploring the role of mechanical loading on the initiation and progression of intervertebral disc degeneration. Historically, finite element models (FEMs) have been useful for predicting disc mechanics in humans. However, differences in geometry and tissue properties may limit the predictive utility of these models for rodent discs. Clearly, models that are specific for rodent tail discs and accurately simulate the disc’s transient mechanical behavior would serve as important tools for clarifying disc mechanics in these animal models. An FEM was developed based on the structure, geometry, and scale of the mouse tail disc. Importantly, two sources of time-dependent mechanical behavior were incorporated: viscoelasticity of the matrix, and fluid permeation. In addition, a novel strain-dependent swelling pressure was implemented through the introduction of a dilatational stress in nuclear elements. The model was then validated against data from quasi-static tension-compression and compressive creep experiments performed previously using mouse tail discs. Finally, sensitivity analyses were performed in which material parameters of each disc subregion were individually varied. During disc compression, matrix consolidation was observed to occur preferentially at the periphery of the nucleus pulposus. Sensitivity analyses revealed that disc mechanics was greatly influenced by changes in nucleus pulposus material properties, but rather insensitive to variations in any of the endplate properties. Moreover, three key features of the model—nuclear swelling pressure, lamellar collagen viscoelasticity, and interstitial fluid permeation—were found to be critical for accurate simulation of disc mechanics. In particular, collagen viscoelasticity dominated the transient behavior of the disc during the initial of creep loading, while fluid permeation governed disc deformation thereafter. The FEM developed in this study exhibited excellent agreement with transient creep behavior of intact mouse tail motion segments. Notably, the model was able to produce spatial variations in nucleus pulposus matrix consolidation that are consistent with previous observations in nuclear cell morphology made in mouse discs using confocal microscopy. Results of this study emphasize the need for including nucleus swelling pressure, collagen viscoelasticity, and fluid permeation when simulating transient changes in matrix and fluid stress/strain. Sensitivity analyses suggest that further characterization of nucleus pulposus material properties should be pursued, due to its significance in steady-state and transient disc mechanical response.
Dependence of Mechanical Behavior of the Murine Tail Disc on Regional Material Properties: A Parametric Finite Element Study
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Hsieh, A. H., Wagner, D. R., Cheng, L. Y., and Lotz, J. C. (June 8, 2005). "Dependence of Mechanical Behavior of the Murine Tail Disc on Regional Material Properties: A Parametric Finite Element Study." ASME. J Biomech Eng. December 2005; 127(7): 1158–1167. https://doi.org/10.1115/1.2073467
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