Simulated Red Blood Cell Motion in Microvessel Bifurcations: Effects of Cell-Cell Interactions on Cell Partitioning

Jared O. Barber, Juan M. Restrepo, Timothy W Secomb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

16 Scopus citations


Partitioning of red blood cell (RBC) fluxes between the branches of a diverging microvessel bifurcation is generally not proportional to the flow rates, as RBCs preferentially enter the higher-flow branch. A two-dimensional model for RBC motion and deformation is used to investigate the effects of cell-cell mechanical interactions on RBC partitioning in bifurcations. The RBC membrane and cytoplasm are represented by sets of viscoelastic elements immersed in a low Reynolds number flow. Several types of two-cell interactions that can affect partitioning are found. In the most frequent interactions, a 'trade-off' occurs, in which a cell entering one branch causes a following cell to enter the other branch. Other types of interactions include 'herding,' where the leading cell is caused to enter the same branch as the following cell, and 'following,' where the trailing cell is caused to enter the same branch as the leading cell. The combined effect of these cell-cell interactions is a tendency towards more uniform partitioning, which results from the trade-off effect but is reduced by the herding and following effects. With increasing hematocrit, the frequency of interactions increases, and more uniform partitioning results. This prediction is consistent with experimental observations on how hematocrit affects RBC partitioning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)349-360
Number of pages12
JournalCardiovascular Engineering and Technology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2011



  • Bifurcation
  • Capillary flow
  • Erythrocyte mechanics
  • Microvessel
  • Phase separation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine

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