Annals of Biomedical Engineering

, Volume 39, Issue 3, pp 1041–1050 | Cite as

Combined Simulation and Experimental Study of Large Deformation of Red Blood Cells in Microfluidic Systems

  • David J. Quinn
  • Igor Pivkin
  • Sophie Y. Wong
  • Keng-Hwee Chiam
  • Ming Dao
  • George Em KarniadakisEmail author
  • Subra Suresh


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.


Erythrocyte Deformability Temperature-dependent rheology 



This work was done as a part of the interdisciplinary research group on Infectious Diseases which is supported by the Singapore MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART) and was also partially supported by NIH/NHLBI award number R01HL094270. This work made use of MRSEC Shared Facilities supported by the National Science Foundation under Award Number DMR-0213282. Simulations were performed using the NSF NICS supercomputing center.

Supplementary material

10439_2010_232_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (202 kb)
PDF (202 KB)


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Copyright information

© Biomedical Engineering Society 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • David J. Quinn
    • 1
  • Igor Pivkin
    • 2
  • Sophie Y. Wong
    • 3
  • Keng-Hwee Chiam
    • 4
  • Ming Dao
    • 2
  • George Em Karniadakis
    • 5
    Email author
  • Subra Suresh
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Mechanical EngineeringMassachusetts Institute of TechnologyCambridgeUSA
  2. 2.Department of Materials Science and EngineeringMassachusetts Institute of TechnologyCambridgeUSA
  3. 3.Department of Biological EngineeringMassachusetts Institute of TechnologyCambridgeUSA
  4. 4.A*STAR Institute of High Performance Computing (IHPC)SingaporeSingapore
  5. 5.Division of Applied MathematicsBrown UniversityProvidenceUSA

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