Surface area-to-volume ratio, not cellular viscoelasticity, is the major determinant of red blood cell traversal through small channels
Publication Year 2020-09-27, Volume 23, Issue #1, Page e13270
Journal Title
Cellular Microbiology
The remarkable deformability of red blood cells (RBCs) depends on the viscoelasticity of the plasma membrane and cell contents and the surface area to volume (SA:V) ratio; however, it remains unclear which of these factors is the key determinant for passage through small capillaries. We used a microfluidic device to examine the traversal of normal, stiffened, swollen, parasitised and immature RBCs. We show that dramatic stiffening of RBCs had no measurable effect on their ability to traverse small channels. By contrast, a moderate decrease in the SA:V ratio had a marked effect on the equivalent cylinder diameter that is traversable by RBCs of similar cellular viscoelasticity. We developed a finite element model that provides a coherent rationale for the experimental observations, based on the nonlinear mechanical behaviour of the RBC membrane skeleton. We conclude that the SA:V ratio should be given more prominence in studies of RBC pathologies.
WEHI Research Division(s)
Infectious Diseases And Immune Defence
PubMed ID
Publisher's Version
Open Access at Publisher's Site
Rights Notice
Refer to copyright notice on published article.

Creation Date: 2020-10-02 02:01:48
Last Modified: 2021-10-21 09:55:40
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