Biomechanics and Modeling in Mechanobiology

, Volume 16, Issue 6, pp 2005–2015 | Cite as

Effect of collagen fibre orientation on intervertebral disc torsion mechanics

  • Bo Yang
  • Grace D. O’ConnellEmail author
Original Paper


The intervertebral disc is a complex fibro-cartilaginous material, consisting of a pressurized nucleus pulposus surrounded by the annulus fibrosus, which has an angle-ply structure. Disc injury and degeneration are noted by significant changes in tissue structure and function, which significantly alters stress distribution and disc joint stiffness. Differences in fibre orientation are thought to contribute to changes in disc torsion mechanics. Therefore, the objective of this study was to evaluate the effect of collagen fibre orientation on internal disc mechanics under compression combined with axial rotation. We developed and validated a finite element model (FEM) to delineate changes in disc mechanics due to fibre orientation from differences in material properties. FEM simulations were performed with fibres oriented at \(\pm 30^{\circ }\) throughout the disc (uniform by region and fibre layer). The initial model was validated by published experimental results for two load conditions, including \(0.48\,\hbox {MPa}\) axial compression and \(10\,\hbox {Nm}\) axial rotation. Once validated, fibre orientation was rotated by \(4^{\circ }\) or \(8^{\circ }\) towards the horizontal plane, resulting in a decrease in disc joint torsional stiffness. Furthermore, we observed that axial rotation caused a sinusoidal change in disc height and radial bulge, which may be beneficial for nutrient transport. In conclusion, including anatomically relevant fibre angles in disc joint FEMs is important for understanding stress distribution throughout the disc and will be important for understanding potential causes for disc injury. Future models will include regional differences in fibre orientation to better represent the fibre architecture of the native disc.


Intervertebral disc Finite element model Torsion mechanics Fibre orientation Degeneration Hyperelastic 



This study was funded by the Hellman Foundation, San Francisco, CA, the Regents of the University of California, and J. K. Zee Fellowship (BY)

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflicts of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.5122 Etcheverry Hall, Mechanical EngineeringUniversity of California, BerkeleyBerkeleyUSA

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