Impact of environment on Red Blood Cell ability to withstand mechanical stress

Clin Hemorheol Microcirc. 2016 Nov 4;64(1):21-33. doi: 10.3233/CH-152037.


Susceptibility of red blood cells (RBC) to hemolysis under mechanical stress is represented by RBC mechanical fragility (MF), with different types or intensities of stress potentially emphasizing different perturbations of RBC membranes. RBC membrane mechanics were shown to depend on cell environment, with many details not yet understood. Here, stress was applied to RBC using a bead mill with oscillation up to 50 Hz, over durations up to 50 minutes. MF profiles plot percent lysis upon stresses of progressive durations. Supplementing media with polyethylene glycol (PEG) which interacts with the cell membrane, but not Dextran which does not, resulted in higher resistance to hemolysis. Albumin, and to a lesser extent fibrinogen and globulins (at physiological concentrations), significantly increased cell ability to withstand mechanical stress versus with un-supplemented buffer solution and with PEG. This is partly due to changes in rheology, per tests done including (PEG) and Dextran, but is mostly due to cell-protein interaction, noting the effect of pH on RBC MF with albumin but not with buffer. Presence of lipids reduced RBC resistance to potentially hemolytic stress with lypemic plasma effecting lower "protection" from induced hemolysis than essentially fatty-acid free plasma. This effect was less dependent on incubation than on fatty-acid presence during stressing. The reduced propensity for hemolysis afforded by plasma proteins also depended markedly on the speed of the bead, potentially reflecting changes from a predominantly Von Karman trail at lower frequencies to an increasingly disorganized turbulent wake at higher frequencies.

Keywords: Red Blood Cells; albumin; blood storage; fatty acid; fibrinogen; gamma-globulin; hemolysis; mechanical fragility; plasma.

MeSH terms

  • Erythrocytes / drug effects*
  • Hemolysis / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Rheology*
  • Stress, Mechanical