Cell viability in intervertebral disc under various nutritional and dynamic loading conditions: 3d Finite element analysis

Qiaoqiao Zhu, Alicia R. Jackson, Wei Yong Gu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


In this study, a new cell density model was developed and incorporated into the formulation of the mechano-electrochemical mixture theory to investigate the effects of deprivation of nutrition supply at boundary source, degeneration, and dynamic loading on the cell viability of intervertebral disc (IVD) using finite element methods. The deprivation of nutrition supply at boundary source was simulated by reduction in nutrition level at CEP and AF boundaries. Cases with 100%, 75%, 60%, 50% and 30% of normal nutrition level at both CEP and AF boundaries were modeled. Unconfined axial sinusoidal dynamic compressions with different combinations of amplitude (u=10%±2.5%, ±5%) and frequency (f=1, 10, 20 cycle/day) were applied. Degenerated IVD was modeled with altered material properties. Cell density decreased substantially with reduction of nutrition level at boundaries. Cell death was initiated primarily near the NP-AF interface on the mid-plane. Dynamic loading did not result in a change in the cell density in non-degenerated IVD, since glucose levels did not fall below the minimum value for cell survival; in degenerated IVDs, we found that increasing frequency and amplitude both resulted in higher cell density, because dynamic compression facilitates the diffusion of nutrients and thus increases the nutrition level around IVD cells. The novel computational model can be used to quantitatively predict both when and where cells start to die within the IVD under various kinds of nutritional and mechanical conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2769-2777
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Biomechanics
Issue number16
StatePublished - Nov 15 2012


  • Biomechanics
  • Cell density
  • Dynamic compression
  • Glucose concentration
  • Mechanobiology
  • Mixture theory
  • Nutrition
  • Transport phenomena

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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