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Biophys J. 1975 Mar;15(3):205-22.

Geometry of the human erythrocyte. I. Effect of albumin on cell geometry.


The effects of albumin on the geometry of human erythrocytes have been studied. Individual red cells, hanging on edge from coverslips were photographed. Enlarged cell profiles were digitized using a Gradicon digitizer (Instronics Ltd., Stittsville, Ontario). Geometric parameters including diameter, area, volume, minimum cylindrical diameter, sphericity index, swelling index, maximum and minimum cell thickness, were calculated for each cell using a CDC 6400 computer. Maximum effect of human serum albumin was reached at about 1 g/liter. Studies of cell populations showed decreases in mean cell diameter of up to 6%, area 6%, and volume 15%, varying from sample to sample. The thickness of the rim was increased while that at the dimple was decreased. Studies of single cells showed that area and volume changes do not occur equally in all cells. Cells with lower sphericity indices showed larger effects. In the presence of albumin, up to 50% of the cells assumed cup-shapes (stomatocytes). These cells had smaller volumes but the same area as biconcave cells. Mechanical agitation could reversibly induce biconcave cells to assume cup shapes without area or volume changes. Experiments with de-fatted human albumins showed that the presence of bound fatty acids in varying concentrations does not alter the observed effects. Bovine serum albumin has similar effects on human erythrocytes as human serum albumin.

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