Combined simulation and experimental study of large deformation of red blood cells in microfluidic systems

Ann Biomed Eng. 2011 Mar;39(3):1041-50. doi: 10.1007/s10439-010-0232-y. Epub 2010 Dec 14.


We investigate the biophysical characteristics of healthy human red blood cells (RBCs) traversing microfluidic channels with cross-sectional areas as small as 2.7 × 3 μm. We combine single RBC optical tweezers and flow experiments with corresponding simulations based on dissipative particle dynamics (DPD), and upon validation of the DPD model, predictive simulations and companion experiments are performed in order to quantify cell deformation and pressure-velocity relationships for different channel sizes and physiologically relevant temperatures. We discuss conditions associated with the shape transitions of RBCs along with the relative effects of membrane and cytosol viscosity, plasma environments, and geometry on flow through microfluidic systems at physiological temperatures. In particular, we identify a cross-sectional area threshold below which the RBC membrane properties begin to dominate its flow behavior at room temperature; at physiological temperatures this effect is less profound.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Cell Size
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Computer Simulation
  • Elastic Modulus / physiology
  • Erythrocytes / cytology*
  • Erythrocytes / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Mechanotransduction, Cellular / physiology*
  • Microfluidics / methods*
  • Models, Cardiovascular*