Poor nutritional supply to the intervertebral disc is believed to be an important factor leading to disc degeneration. However, little is known regarding nutritional transport in human annulus fibrosus (AF) and its relation to tissue morphology. We hypothesized that solute diffusivity in human AF is anisotropic and inhomogeneous, and that transport behaviors are associated with tissue composition and structure. To test these hypotheses, we measured the direction-dependent diffusivity of a fluorescent molecule (fluorescein, 332 Da) in three regions of AF using a fluorescence recovery after photobleaching (FRAP) technique, and associated transport results to the regional variation in water content and collagen architecture in the tissue. Diffusivity in AF was anisotropic, with higher values in the axial direction than in the radial direction for all regions investigated. The values of the diffusion coefficient ranged from 0.38 ± 0.25 × 10-6 cm2/s (radial diffusivity in outer AF) to 2.68 ± 0.84 × 10-6 cm2/s (axial diffusivity in inner AF). In both directions, diffusivity decreased moving from inner to outer AF. Tissue structure was investigated using both scanning electron microscopy and environmental scanning electron microscopy. A unique arrangement of microtubes was found in human AF. Furthermore, we also found that the density of these microtubes varied moving from inner to outer AF. A similar trend of regional variation was found for water content, with the highest value also measured in inner AF. Therefore, we concluded that a relationship exists among the anisotropic and inhomogeneous diffusion in human AF and the structure and composition of the tissue.
- Environmental scanning electron microscopy (ESEM)
- Fluorescence recovery after photobleaching (FRAP)
- Intervertebral disc
- Microscopy (SEM)
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Orthopedics and Sports Medicine