Human Red Cell Shape and the Mechanical Characteristics of the Membrane

  • Thomas M. Fischer


The main task of the red cell is to transport oxygen and CO2. It fulfils this task as a passive transport vehicle in the circulating blood. When the forces exerted by the suspending fluid on the red cell membrane are large the red cell shows liquid behaviour; i.e. it behaves similarly to a liquid drop in that its interior participates in flow (Schmid-Schönbein and Wells 1969; Fischer et al. 1978; Fischer 1978). This behaviour rests on the fact that the cytoplasm of the red cell is liquid and contains no cell skeleton. When the forces are small the red cell behaves as a solid body. It may rotate in flow but its shape is the same as in the absence of external forces. The reason for this solid behaviour is the shear stiffness of the membrane (Sect. 3.5.3) and the fact that its relaxed shape (Sect. 3.6.3) is not spherical.


Shape Change Shear Stiffness Membrane Patch Neutral Plane Spontaneous Curvature 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas M. Fischer
    • 1
  1. 1.Institut für PhysiologieUniversitätsklinikum der RWTHAachenGermany

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