Comparison of erythrocyte dynamics in shear flow under different stress-free configurations

Daniel Cordasco, Alireza Yazdani, Prosenjit Bagchi

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41 Scopus citations


An open question that has persisted for decades is whether the cytoskeleton of a red blood cell is stress-free or under a stress. This question is important in the context of theoretical modeling of cellularmotion under a flowing conditionwhere it is necessary to make an assumption about the stress-free state. Here, we present a 3D numerical study to compare the cell dynamics in a simple shear flow under two different stressfree states, a biconcave discocyte representing the resting shape of the cell, and a nearly spherical oblate shape. We find that whether the stress-free states make a significant difference or not depends on the viscosity of the suspending medium. If the viscosity is close to that of blood plasma, the two stress-free states do not show any significant difference in cell dynamics. However, when the suspending medium viscosity is well above that of the physiological range, as in many in vitro studies, the shear rate separating the tank-treading and tumbling dynamics is observed to be higher for the biconcave stress-free state than the spheroidal state. The former shows a strong shape oscillation with repeated departures from the biconcave shape, while the latter shows a nearly stable biconcave shape. It is found that the cell membrane in the biconcave stress-free state is under a compressive stress and a weaker bending force density, leading to a periodic compression of the cell. The shape oscillation then leads to a higher energy barrier against membrane tank-tread leading to an early transition to tumbling. However, if the cells are released with a large off-shear plane angle, the oscillations can be suppressed due to an azimuthal motion of the membrane along the vorticity direction leading to a redistribution of the membrane points and lowering of the energy barrier, which again results in a nearly similar behavior of the cells under the two different stress-free states. A variety of off-shear plane dynamics is observed, namely, rolling, kayaking, precession, and a new dynamics termed "hovering." For the physiological viscosity range, the shear-plane tumbling appears to be relatively less common, while the rolling is observed to be more stable

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number041902
JournalPhysics of Fluids
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 21 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Condensed Matter Physics

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