Ali Raza, Arthur J. Michalek

December 2021, Volume 30, Issue 12, pp 3450 - 3456 Original Article Read Full Article 10.1007/s00586-021-06999-7

First Online: 24 September 2021


The intervertebral disc (IVD) annulus fibrosus (AF) is composed of concentric lamellae with alternating right- and left-handed helically oriented collagen fiber bundles. This arrangement results in anisotropic material properties, which depend on local fiber orientations. Prior measurements of fiber inclination angles in human lumbar and bovine caudal IVDs found a significantly higher inclination angle in the inner AF than outer, though it is currently unknown if this pattern is conserved in smaller mammalian species. Additionally, the physical mechanism behind this pattern remains un-determined.


In this study, AF fiber angles were measured histologically in murine caudal IVDs and compared to previously published values from bovine caudal IVDs. Fiber angles were also predicted using three theoretical models, including two based on adaptation to internal swelling pressure and one based on vertebral body growth.


Fiber angle was found to significantly decrease from 49.5 ± 3.8° in the inner AF to 34.5 ± 6.6° in the outer AF. While steeper than in bovine discs at all locations, the trend with radial position was comparable between species. This trend was best fit by growth-based model and opposite of that predicted by the pressure vessel models.


Trends in AF fiber orientation are conserved between mammalian species. Modeling results suggest that the AF tissue microstructure is more likely to be driven by adjacent vertebral body growth than adapted for optimal mechanical performance.

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