Investigation of red blood cell partitioning in an in vitro microvascular bifurcation

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There is a long history of research examining red blood cell (RBC) partitioning in microvasculature bifurcations. These studies commonly report results describing partitioning that exists as either regular partitioning, which occurs when the RBC flux ratio is greater than the bulk fluid flowrate ratio, or reverse partitioning when the RBC flux ratio is less than or equal to that of the bulk fluid flowrate. This paper presents a study of RBC partitioning in a single bifurcating microchannel with dimensions of 6 to 16 μm, investigating the effects of hematocrit, channel width, daughter channel flowrate ratio, and bifurcation angle. The erythrocyte flux ratio, N*, manifests itself as either regular or reverse partitioning, and time-dependent partitioning is much more dynamic, occurring as both regular and reverse partitioning. We report a significant reduction in the well-known sigmoidal variation of the erythrocyte flux ratio (N*) versus the volumetric flowrate ratio (Q*), partitioning behavior with increasing hematocrit in microchannels when the channel dimensions are comparable with cell size. RBCs “lingering” or jamming at the bifurcation were also observed and quantified in vitro. Results from trajectory analyses suggest that the RBC position in the feeder channel strongly affects both partitioning and lingering frequency of RBCs, with both being significantly reduced when RBCs flow on streamlines near the edge of the channel as opposed to the center of the channel. Furthermore, our experiments suggest that even at low Reynolds number, partitioning is affected by the bifurcation angle by increasing cell–cell interactions. The presented results provide further insight into RBC partitioning as well as perfusion throughout the microvasculature.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1083-1096
Number of pages14
JournalArtificial Organs
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2021
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Bioengineering
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Biomaterials
  • Biomedical Engineering


  • fluid dynamics
  • hemodynamics
  • microvascular
  • perfusion
  • red blood cell partitioning


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