Microfluidic obstacle arrays induce large reversible shape change in red blood cells

David W. Inglis*, Robert E. Nordon, Jason P. Beech, Gary Rosengarten

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
5 Downloads (Pure)


Red blood cell (RBC) shape change under static and dynamic shear stress has been a source of interest for at least 50 years. High-speed time-lapse microscopy was used to observe the rate of deformation and relaxation when RBCs are subjected to periodic shear stress and deformation forces as they pass through an obstacle. We show that red blood cells are reversibly de-formed and take on characteristic shapes not previously seen in physiological buffers when the maximum shear stress was between 2.2 and 25 Pa (strain rate 2200 to 25,000 s−1). We quantify the rates of RBC deformation and recovery using Kaplan–Meier survival analysis. The time to deformation decreased from 320 to 23 milliseconds with increasing flow rates, but the distance traveled before deformation changed little. Shape recovery, a measure of degree of deformation, takes tens of milliseconds at the lowest flow rates and reached saturation at 2.4 s at a shear stress of 11.2 Pa indicating a maximum degree of deformation was reached. The rates and types of deformation have relevance in red blood cell disorders and in blood cell behavior in microfluidic devices.

Original languageEnglish
Article number783
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2021

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2021. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • shear
  • erythrocyte
  • morphology
  • microfluidic
  • deterministic lateral displacement (DLD)


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