Two-dimensional simulation of red blood cell deformation and lateral migration in microvessels

Timothy W. Secomb, Beata Styp-Rekowska, Axel R. Pries

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

148 Scopus citations


A theoretical method is used to simulate the motion and deformation of mammalian red blood cells (RBCs) in microvessels, based on knowledge of the mechanical characteristics of RBCs. Each RBC is represented as a set of interconnected viscoelastic elements in two dimensions. The motion and deformation of the cell and the motion of the surrounding fluid are computed using a finite-element numerical method. Simulations of RBC motion in simple shear flow of a high-viscosity fluid show "tank-treading'' motion of the membrane around the cell perimeter, as observed experimentally. With appropriate choice of the parameters representing RBC mechanical properties, the tank-treading frequency and cell elongation agree closely with observations over a range of shear rates. In simulations of RBC motion in capillary-sized channels, initially circular cell shapes rapidly approach shapes typical of those seen experimentally in capillaries, convex in front and concave at the rear. An isolated RBC entering an 8-μm capillary close to the wall is predicted to migrate in the lateral direction as it traverses the capillary, achieving a position near the center-line after traveling a distance of about 60 μm. Cell trajectories agree closely with those observed in microvessels of the rat mesentery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)755-765
Number of pages11
JournalAnnals of Biomedical Engineering
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2007


  • Capillary flow
  • Erythrocyte mechanics
  • Shear flow
  • Tank-treading

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomedical Engineering


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