Motion of red blood cells in a capillary with an endothelial surface layer: Effect of flow velocity

T. W. Secomb, R. Hsu, A. R. Pries

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

160 Scopus citations


Interior surfaces of capillaries are lined with macromolecules forming an endothelial surface layer (ESL). A theoretical model is used to investigate effects of flow velocity on motion and axisymmetric deformation of red blood cells in a capillary with an ESL. Cell deformation is analyzed, including effects of membrane shear and bending elasticity. Plasma flow around the cell and through the ESL is computed using lubrication theory. The ESL is represented as a porous layer that exerts compressive forces on red blood cells that penetrate it. According to the model, hydrodynamic pressures generated by plasma flow around the cell squeeze moving red blood cells into narrow elongated shapes. If the ESL is 0.7 μm wide, with hydraulic resistivity of 2 × 108 dyn·s·cm-4, and exerts a force of 20 dyn/cm2, predicted variation with flow velocity of the gap width between red blood cell and capillary wall agrees well with observations. Predicted gap at a velocity of 0.1 mm/s is ∼0.6 μm vs. ∼0.2 μm with no ESL. Predicted flow resistance increases markedly at low velocities. The model shows that exclusion of red blood cells from the ESL in flowing capillaries can result from hydrodynamic forces generated by plasma flow through the ESL.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)H629-H636
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Heart and Circulatory Physiology
Issue number2 50-2
StatePublished - 2001


  • Apparent viscosity
  • Blood flow resistance
  • Glycocalyx
  • Hematocrit
  • Microvessels

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)


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