Associate Professor John Costi
Costi, John (Associate Professor)
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Project description

The interlamellar matrix (ILM) forms the boundary between lamellae in the annulus fibrosus of the disc. This boundary has been shown to be a weak link during excessive and awkward lifting movements, which causes delamination and the creation of annular tears that may lead to disc degeneration and herniation. Studies of the micromechanical properties of the ILM have been conducted on sheep discs, however no studies have been undertaken using human discs, where clinical relevance is highest. This research will, for the first time, elucidate an understanding of the radial and circumferential micromechanical properties of the ILM in human discs and investigate the contribution of the elastic fibre network in the ILM and how these important structures function to allow everyday spinal movements, as well as how they protect the disc against injury.


Mr Michael Russo

Assumed knowledge

Knowledge from ENGR8732 Biomechanics GE and ENGR9811 Solid Mechanics GE

Supervisors research focus

My program of research aims to understand the fundamental multiscale properties of normal, degenerated and injured spinal discs, and their mechanisms of failure, and to develop medical devices to treat these problems. Low back pain is ranked globally as the greatest contributor to the number of years lived with disability and is the number one contributor to the non-fatal health burden in Australia. Injury to the disc can occur through awkward lifting postures or propagate over many years of repetitive lifting. In both cases, the disc can herniate (aka 'slipped disc') causing radiating nerve pain and disability. We use a range of equipment including a unique, world-leading six axis hexapod robot, a single axis materials fatigue testing system and a biaxial system for testing microscale portions of biological tissues. We also use scanning electron microscopy to visualise the micro-/nano-scale structure of disc tissue to understand mechanisms of failure. Collaborations can be developed with researchers across Flinders, or across Australia and internationally.