Disc Cell Mechanobiology and Disease

Project Funding: NSF CAREER 1151605, NIH R01 AR069668

Microscopic image of inflamed spinal disc cells
FEBio infinote element modeling of spinal disc cell deformation

Disc cells are mechanosensitive, capable of responding to mechanical stress over a wide dynamic range of external mechanical stimuli. We are investigating how inflammation alters the biomechanical properties, deformation behavior, and mechanosensitivity of cells in the IVD. Our studies provide evidence that inflammation alters disc cell biomechanical properties and cytoskeleton, leading to alterations in cell mechanobiology. We use atomic force microscopy (AFM) for studying contact mechanics, in the context of cell biomechanics of aging and inflammation. Using microfluidic techniques and theoretical modeling, we study changes in cellular hydraulic permeability. Using FEBio finite element modeling, we are generating predictions of in situ deformation and stress microenvironments in disease states. Measuring and modeling consequences of inflammation on cell mechanobiology provides insight into the multiscale environment of cells as they adapt to changes occurring in aging and degeneration.