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Keywords:

  • differential interference contrast optical microscopy;
  • ovine lumbar disc;
  • translamellar bridging network

Abstract

Little is known about the complex forces acting on the deformable multi-layered annulus at a microstructural level as the spine is compressed, flexed and twisted. The recently described translamellar bridging network radially linking many lamellae at discrete locations around the disc wall could be expected to play a significant biomechanical role. In this study, segments of annular wall that were sectioned at a range of angles (oblique, in-plane, sagittal and transverse) were examined using differential interference contrast microscopy to fully elucidate the fibrous detail of the translamellar bridging structures. Typically encompassing a width of 300–600 µm, translamellar bridging fibres proceed radially in the interbundle space within an individual lamella. Upon traversing the lamella, the bulk of these radial fibres bend through 90° to merge with the fibres of the adjacent lamellae. The central fibres of this bridging system continue into the equivalent bridging structures in the adjacent lamellae. As well as exposing structural details that underpin the biomechanical properties of the disc wall, this study has also exposed the limitations of using standard section planes commonly employed by disc researchers.