We have developed a simple, inexpensive and innovative device for reproducing the global mechanical behavior of spinal motion segments and the local mechanical environment experienced by lumbar intervertebral discs. The device has several broad functions: (1) exploration of the basic mechanics underlying this complex skeletal system, (2) connecting changes in tissue characteristics with overall motion segment function, and (3) evaluation of strategies for repair and replacement of disc components. This “disc emulator” consists of three main parts: (1) an artificial annulus fibrosus (AAF), made out of silicone, with lumbar disc geometry and adjustable material properties, (2) a hydrogel nucleus pulposus (NP) also with lumbar disc geometry and adjustable material properties, and (3) simulated vertebral bodies 3D printed with trabecular bone simulated by a rigid polymer (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene, ABS) and end plates crafted from a compliant polymer (Thermoplastic Polyurethane, TPU). Mechanical compression experiments have been conducted using the disc emulator under similar protocols to published studies of human cadaver samples. Bulging of the artificial annulus fibrosus was examined under axial compression loads using digital image correlation (DIC), and results show close agreement. We see this approach of using anatomical geometry and multiple adjustable components as a useful means of creating accurate local stress/strain environments for preliminary material evaluation, without the variability and difficulty inherent indirect testing of cadaveric materials.
Conflict of interest statement
The authors declare no competing interests.
Huang J, Yan H, Jian F, Wang X, Li H. Huang J, et al. Comput Methods Biomech Biomed Engin. 2015;18(14):1516-24. doi: 10.1080/10255842.2014.921815. Epub 2014 Jun 3. Comput Methods Biomech Biomed Engin. 2015. PMID: 24893132
Gebhard H, Bowles R, Dyke J, Saleh T, Doty S, Bonassar L, Härtl R. Gebhard H, et al. Evid Based Spine Care J. 2010 Aug;1(2):62-6. doi: 10.1055/s-0028-1100918. Evid Based Spine Care J. 2010. PMID: 23637671 Free PMC article.
Ryan G, Pandit A, Apatsidis D. Ryan G, et al. Clin Biomech (Bristol, Avon). 2008 Aug;23(7):859-69. doi: 10.1016/j.clinbiomech.2008.03.066. Clin Biomech (Bristol, Avon). 2008. PMID: 18423954
Zhao R, Liu W, Xia T, Yang L. Zhao R, et al. Polymers (Basel). 2019 Jul 5;11(7):1151. doi: 10.3390/polym11071151. Polymers (Basel). 2019. PMID: 31284436 Free PMC article. Review.
Pathak S, Conermann T. Pathak S, et al. 2020 Jul 10. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan–. StatPearls. 2021 Jan–. PMID: 32809372 Free Books & Documents. Review.