The hydrodynamic radii of macromolecules and their effect on red blood cell aggregation

Biophys J. 2004 Dec;87(6):4259-70. doi: 10.1529/biophysj.104.047746. Epub 2004 Sep 10.


The effects of nonionic polymers on human red blood cell (RBC) aggregation were investigated. The hydrodynamic radius (Rh) of individual samples of dextran, polyvinylpyrrolidone, and polyoxyethylene over a range of molecular weights (1,500-2,000,000) were calculated from their intrinsic viscosities using the Einstein viscosity relation and directly measured by quasi-elastic light scattering, and the effect of each polymer sample on RBC aggregation was studied by nephelometry and low-shear viscometry. For all three polymers, despite their different structures, samples with Rh <4 nm were found to inhibit aggregation, whereas those with Rh >4 nm enhanced aggregation. Inhibition increased with Rh and was maximal at approximately 3 nm; above 4 nm the pro-aggregant effect increased with Rh. For comparison, the Rh of 12 plasma proteins were calculated from literature values of intrinsic viscosity or diffusion coefficient. Each protein known to promote RBC aggregation had Rh >4 nm, whereas those with Rh <4 nm either inhibited or had no effect on aggregation. These results suggest that the influence of a nonionic polymer or plasma protein on RBC aggregation is simply a consequence of its size in an aqueous environment, and that the specific type of macromolecule is of minor importance.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Blood Viscosity / physiology*
  • Cell Culture Techniques / methods*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Erythrocyte Aggregation / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Macromolecular Substances / chemistry*
  • Molecular Weight
  • Nephelometry and Turbidimetry / methods*
  • Particle Size
  • Polymers / chemistry*
  • Rheology / methods*
  • Stress, Mechanical


  • Macromolecular Substances
  • Polymers