Flinders University
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The ultra-structural organization of elastic fibres in the Annulus fibrosus of the intervertebral disc

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posted on 2021-10-21, 06:51 authored by John CostiJohn Costi, Javad Tavakoli
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The fibrous constituents of the annulus fibrosus (AF) in the disc contribute to its mechanical and viscoelastic properties. It was thought that elastic fibres play no substantial role in the function and properties of the disc as these fibres were irregularly distributed. Studies that have revealed highly organized elastic fibres with different regional orientation and distribution, while being strongly crosslinked with matrix, suggesting their contribution to disc structure-function properties. These studies that were performed by light microscopic analysis of histologically prepared samples, have not been able to reveal the fine-scale architectural details of the elastic fibre network. Since elastic fibres are intermingled with other fibrous components of the disc and mostly obscured by the extracellular matrix, it is difficult to demonstrate their ultra-structural organization using scanning electron microscopy (SEM).
A novel, simple and cost effective protocol for visualization and isolation of the elastic fibre network in the AF of the disc was developed based on simultaneous sonication and alkali digestion of tissue. The method eliminates all matrix constituents except for elastic fibres, which is applicable for different species (ovine, bovine, porcine and human), which are commonly used in disc research. This method provides the following advantages:

1. Visualization of elastic fibres and their architecture in healthy, degenerated, herniated or scoliosis discs.
2. Through the ultra-structural analysis, the relationship between structure and function, as well as the role of elastic fibres on AF mechanical properties can be studied.
3. A three-dimensional map of elastic fibres distribution within the disc can be prepared, which would provide valuable information for designing tissue engineered scaffolds for AF repair and replacement.

Date coverage: 2016 - 2017


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Mr Javad Tavakoli

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