Red blood cell distribution in a microvascular network with successive bifurcations

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Nonproportional RBC distribution is an important characteristic in microvascular networks, which can result in heterogeneity of oxygen supply that may cause ischemic death in severe cases. In this paper, we perform three-dimensional numerical simulations of a large number of RBCs in a microvascular network, by using a hybrid method of smoothed dissipative particle dynamic and immersed boundary method. The distribution of multiple RBCs in a T-bifurcation is first simulated as a validation study, and a reasonable agreement is observed both qualitatively and quantitatively on the RBC flux between our results and the previously published numerical and empirical results. Next, the distribution of a large number of RBCs in a microvascular network is investigated, including the effects of cell deformability, aggregation and tube hematocrit. The simulation results indicate that decreased deformability and increased aggregation strength have a similar effect on the RBC distribution: the large RBC flux becomes larger, but the small becomes smaller. A high hematocrit also causes a similar phenomenon that the RBCs are more apt to flow into a high RBC-flux branch, because they are arranged compactly into a rouleaux and difficultly broken up at a high hematocrit. These results imply that lower cell deformability, stronger aggregation or higher tube hematocrit would be conducive to the phase separation of hematocrit and plasma skimming processes in microcirculation.

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The authors gratefully acknowledge the financial support from the National Natural Science Foundation of China under Project No. 11502094.

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Correspondence to Ting Ye.

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Ye, T., Peng, L. & Li, G. Red blood cell distribution in a microvascular network with successive bifurcations. Biomech Model Mechanobiol 18, 1821–1835 (2019) doi:10.1007/s10237-019-01179-5

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  • Red blood cells
  • Smoothed dissipative particle dynamics
  • Immersed boundary method
  • Cell distribution
  • Microvascular network