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Probing multi-scale mechanics of peripheral nerve collagen and myelin by x-ray diffraction

DOI: 10.1016/j.jmbbm.2018.07.030 DOI Help

Authors: Fabio Bianchi (University of Oxford) , Felix Hofmann (University of Oxford) , Andrew J. Smith (Diamond Light Source) , Hua Ye (University of Oxford) , Mark S. Thompson (University of Oxford)
Co-authored by industrial partner: No

Type: Journal Paper
Journal: Journal Of The Mechanical Behavior Of Biomedical Materials

State: Published (Approved)
Published: July 2018
Diamond Proposal Number(s): 12528

Abstract: Peripheral nerves are continuously subjected to mechanical forces, both during everyday movement and as a result of traumatic events. Current mechanical models focus on explaining the macroscopic behaviour of the tissue, but do not investigate how tissue strain translates to deformations at the microstructural level. Predicting the effect of macro-scale loading can help explain changes in nerve function and suggest new strategies for prevention and therapy. The aim of this study was to determine the relationship between macroscopic tensile loading and micro scale deformation in structures thought to be mechanically active in peripheral nerves: the myelin sheath enveloping axons, and axially aligned epineurial collagen fibrils. The microstructure was probed using x-ray diffraction during in situ tensile loading, measuring the micro-scale deformation in collagen and myelin, combined with high definition macroscopic video extensiometry. At a tissue level, tensile loading elongates nerves axially, whilst simultaneously compressing circumferentially. The non-linear behaviour observed in both directions is evidence, circumferentially, that the nerve core components have the ability to rearrange before bearing load and axially, of a recruitment process in epineurial collagen. At the molecular level, axially aligned epineurial collagen fibrils are strained, whilst the myelin sheath enveloping axons is compressed circumferentially. During induced compression, the myelin sheath shows high circumferential stiffness, indicating a possible role in mechanical protection of axons. The myelin sheath is deformed from low loads, despite the non-linearity of whole tissue compression, indicating more than one mechanism contributing to myelin compression. Epineurial collagen shows similar load-bearing characteristics to those of other collagenous connective tissues. This new microstructural knowledge is key to understand peripheral nerve mechanical behaviour, and will support new regenerative strategies for traumatic and repetitive injury.

Journal Keywords: Peripheral Nerve;Collagen;Myelin;Biomechanics;X-Ray Diffraction

Subject Areas: Biology and Bio-materials

Instruments: I22-Small angle scattering & Diffraction