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What Causes Blood Cells To Deform, And How Does Deformation Affect Blood Flow?

Date:
November 1, 2009
Source:
American Physical Society
Summary:
Physicists investigate the forces that deform red blood cells into asymmetric slipper shapes, and strive to learn how the deformation is important in blood flow and various blood flow-related diseases.
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Red blood cells, which make up 45 percent of blood, normally take the shape of circular cushions with a dimple on either side. But they can sometimes deform into an asymmetrical slipper shape. A team of physicists have used simulations to explore how fluid flow might be responsible for this deformation, as well as how the deformation in turn affects blood flow. The insights could help understand the mechanisms involved in arterial disease and other blood flow-related ailments.

Their research is reported in Physical Review Letters and highlighted with a Viewpoint in the October 26 issue of Physics.

When a red blood cell flows through an artery, one face usually balloons out like a parachute, but sometimes the cell can deform to resemble a slipper. To find out why, Badr Kaoui at the Université Joseph Fourier in Grenoble, France and his colleagues modeled the cells as two-dimensional fluid-filled sacks flowing in a liquid. They found that when the cells weren't sufficiently plump, the symmetric parachute collapsed into a slipper. They also found that this morphing helped the sacks catch up with the rest of the fluid, suggesting that the slipper shape achieves more efficient blood flow.

Little is known about how the shape of red blood cells could change how they transport oxygen or how they interact with chemicals in the body. More generally, understanding circulation is important to pathology of illnesses like coronary heart disease. The ailment, which develops when plaque obstructs blood flow in an artery, is the leading cause of death in the United States. Kaoui and his colleagues' research takes important first steps toward understanding the consequences of red blood cell shape and behavior on overall blood flow.


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The above story is based on materials provided by American Physical Society. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

American Physical Society. "What Causes Blood Cells To Deform, And How Does Deformation Affect Blood Flow?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 November 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/10/091026132935.htm>.
American Physical Society. (2009, November 1). What Causes Blood Cells To Deform, And How Does Deformation Affect Blood Flow?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 22, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/10/091026132935.htm
American Physical Society. "What Causes Blood Cells To Deform, And How Does Deformation Affect Blood Flow?." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/10/091026132935.htm (accessed May 22, 2015).

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