Rheology of embryonic avian blood

Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol. 2011 Dec;301(6):H2473-81. doi: 10.1152/ajpheart.00475.2011. Epub 2011 Sep 30.


Shear stress, a mechanical force created by blood flow, is known to affect the developing cardiovascular system. Shear stress is a function of both shear rate and viscosity. While established techniques for measuring shear rate in embryos have been developed, the viscosity of embryonic blood has never been known but always assumed to be like adult blood. Blood is a non-Newtonian fluid, where the relationship between shear rate and shear stress is nonlinear. In this work, we analyzed the non-Newtonian behavior of embryonic chicken blood using a microviscometer and present the apparent viscosity at different hematocrits, different shear rates, and at different stages during development from 4 days (Hamburger-Hamilton stage 22) to 8 days (about Hamburger-Hamilton stage 34) of incubation. We chose the chicken embryo since it has become a common animal model for studying hemodynamics in the developing cardiovascular system. We found that the hematocrit increases with the stage of development. The viscosity of embryonic avian blood in all developmental stages studied was shear rate dependent and behaved in a non-Newtonian manner similar to that of adult blood. The range of shear rates and hematocrits at which non-Newtonian behavior was observed is, however, outside the physiological range for the larger vessels of the embryo. Under low shear stress conditions, the spherical nucleated blood cells that make up embryonic blood formed into small aggregates of cells. We found that the apparent blood viscosity decreases at a given hematocrit during embryonic development, not due to changes in protein composition of the plasma but possibly due to the changes in cellular composition of embryonic blood. This decrease in apparent viscosity was only visible at high hematocrit. At physiological values of hematocrit, embryonic blood viscosity did not change significantly with the stage of development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood Viscosity
  • Chick Embryo
  • Chickens / blood*
  • Embryo, Nonmammalian
  • Hematocrit
  • Hemorheology*
  • Models, Cardiovascular
  • Stress, Mechanical
  • Time Factors