A Novel Physiology-Based Mathematical Model to Estimate Red Blood Cell Lifespan in Different Human Age Groups

AAPS J. 2016 Sep;18(5):1182-1191. doi: 10.1208/s12248-016-9923-0. Epub 2016 May 23.


Direct measurement of red blood cell (RBC) survival in humans has improved from the original accurate but limited differential agglutination technique to the current reliable, safe, and accurate biotin method. Despite this, all of these methods are time consuming and require blood sampling over several months to determine the RBC lifespan. For situations in which RBC survival information must be obtained quickly, these methods are not suitable. With the exception of adults and infants, RBC survival has not been extensively investigated in other age groups. To address this need, we developed a novel, physiology-based mathematical model that quickly estimates RBC lifespan in healthy individuals at any age. The model is based on the assumption that the total number of RBC recirculations during the lifespan of each RBC (denoted by N max) is relatively constant for all age groups. The model was initially validated using the data from our prior infant and adult biotin-labeled red blood cell studies and then extended to the other age groups. The model generated the following estimated RBC lifespans in 2-year-old, 5-year-old, 8-year-old, and 10-year-old children: 62, 74, 82, and 86 days, respectively. We speculate that this model has useful clinical applications. For example, HbA1c testing is not reliable in identifying children with diabetes because HbA1c is directly affected by RBC lifespan. Because our model can estimate RBC lifespan in children at any age, corrections to HbA1c values based on the model-generated RBC lifespan could improve diabetes diagnosis as well as therapy in children.

Keywords: RBC lifespan prediction; biotin-labeled red blood cells; erythrocyte kinetics; red cell survival.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Cell Survival / physiology
  • Cellular Senescence / physiology*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Erythrocytes / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Biological*
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Young Adult