Three-dimensional finite element modeling of pericellular matrix and cell mechanics in the nucleus pulposus of the intervertebral disk based on in situ morphology.


Journal Article

Nucleus pulposus (NP) cells of the intervertebral disk (IVD) have unique morphological characteristics and biologic responses to mechanical stimuli that may regulate maintenance and health of the IVD. NP cells reside as single cell, paired or multiple cells in a contiguous pericellular matrix (PCM), whose structure and properties may significantly influence cell and extracellular matrix mechanics. In this study, a computational model was developed to predict the stress-strain, fluid pressure and flow fields for cells and their surrounding PCM in the NP using three-dimensional (3D) finite element models based on the in situ morphology of cell-PCM regions of the mature rat NP, measured using confocal microscopy. Three-dimensional geometries of the extracellular matrix and representative cell-matrix units were used to construct 3D finite element models of the structures as isotropic and biphasic materials. In response to compressive strain of the extracellular matrix, NP cells and PCM regions were predicted to experience volumetric strains that were 1.9-3.7 and 1.4-2.1 times greater than the extracellular matrix, respectively. Volumetric and deviatoric strain concentrations were generally found at the cell/PCM interface, while von Mises stress concentrations were associated with the PCM/extracellular matrix interface. Cell-matrix units containing greater cell numbers were associated with higher peak cell strains and lower rates of fluid pressurization upon loading. These studies provide new model predictions for micromechanics of NP cells that can contribute to an understanding of mechanotransduction in the IVD and its changes with aging and degeneration.

Full Text

Cited Authors

  • Cao, L; Guilak, F; Setton, LA

Published Date

  • February 2011

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 10 / 1

Start / End Page

  • 1 - 10

PubMed ID

  • 20376522

Pubmed Central ID

  • 20376522

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1617-7940

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1617-7959

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1007/s10237-010-0214-x


  • eng