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BioMed Research International
Volume 2014, Article ID 764268, 9 pages
Research Article

Alterations in Red Blood Cell Deformability during Storage: A Microfluidic Approach

1Department of Biochemistry, Radboud Institute for Molecular Life Sciences, Radboud University Medical Centre, Geert Grooteplein 28, 6525 GA Nijmegen, The Netherlands
2Department of Physical Organic Chemistry, Radboud University Nijmegen, Institute for Molecules and Materials, Heyendaalseweg 135, 6525 AJ Nijmegen, The Netherlands
3Department of Neurology, Radboud University Medical Centre, Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, Reinier Postlaan 4, 6525 CG Nijmegen, The Netherlands

Received 5 June 2014; Accepted 15 August 2014; Published 10 September 2014

Academic Editor: Ulrich Salzer

Copyright © 2014 Judith C. A. Cluitmans et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Red blood cells (RBCs) undergo extensive deformation when travelling through the microcapillaries. Deformability, the combined result of properties of the membrane-cytoskeleton complex, the surface area-to-volume ratio, and the hemoglobin content, is a critical determinant of capillary blood flow. During blood bank storage and in many pathophysiological conditions, RBC morphology changes, which has been suggested to be associated with decreased deformability and removal of RBC. While various techniques provide information on the rheological properties of stored RBCs, their clinical significance is controversial. We developed a microfluidic approach for evaluating RBC deformability in a physiologically meaningful and clinically significant manner. Unlike other techniques, our method enables a high-throughput determination of changes in deformation capacity to provide statistically significant data, while providing morphological information at the single-cell level. Our data show that, under conditions that closely mimic capillary dimensions and flow, the capacity to deform and the capacity to relax are not affected during storage in the blood bank. Our data also show that altered cell morphology by itself does not necessarily affect deformability.