Project descriptionThe 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. The elastic fibre network is essential for ensuring mechanical stability of the ILM. A partial digestion technique was developed and validated in sheep discs, however, there is no technique that has isolated the elastic fibre network in human discs, which has the highest clinical relevance for tears, injury and disc degeneration. The primary aim of this research is to develop and validate a partial digestion technique for isolating and visualising the elastic fibre network within the ILM in human discs. The secondary aim is to use the validated digestion technique to compare the micromechanical properties of intact ILM to the digested ILM in human discs.