The mechanical properties of neonatal rat spinal cord in vitro, and comparisons with adult

Elizabeth C. Clarke, Shaokoon Cheng, Lynne E. Bilston*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


A number of studies have investigated the mechanical properties of adult spinal cord under tension, however it is not known whether age has an effect on these properties. This is of interest to those aiming to understand the clinical differences between adults and children with spinal cord injury (e.g. severity and recovery), and those developing experimental or computational models for paediatric spinal cord injury. Entire spinal cords were freshly harvested from neonatal rats (14 days) and tested in vitro under uniaxial tension at a range of strain rates (0.2, 0.02, 0.002/s) to a range of strains (2%, 3.5%, 5%), with relaxation responses being recorded for 15 min. These mechanical properties were compared to previously reported data from similar experiments on adult rat spinal cords, and the peak stress and the stress after 15 min of relaxation were found to be significantly higher for spinal cords from adults than neonates (p<0.001). A non-linear viscoelastic model was developed and was observed to adequately predict the mechanical behaviour of this tissue. The model developed in this study may be of use in computational models of paediatric spinal cord. The significant differences between adult and neonatal spinal cord properties may explain the higher initial severity of spinal cord injury in children and may have implications for the development of experimental animal models for paediatric spinal cord injury, specifically for those aiming to match the injury severity with adult experimental models.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1397-1402
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Biomechanics
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jul 2009
Externally publishedYes


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