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Biochim Biophys Acta. 1990 Dec 6;1036(3):193-201.

On the shape of human red blood cells interacting with flat artificial surfaces--the 'glass effect'.

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Department of Biophysics, Arrhenius Laboratories of Natural Sciences, Stockholm University, Sweden.


The morphology of the human red blood cell (RBC) contained between two flat artificial surfaces has been investigated. Shape transformation from the discocytic into various crenated (echinocytic) states was not caused solely by glass ('glass effect'). Various organic polymers, and mica, were effective, provided the distance (0.1 mm) between the two surfaces was carefully controlled. The discocytic state could only be preserved using moderately hydrophobic glass, extensive dimethylsilylation induced stomatocytes. With washed blood samples crenation occurred in a potassium chloride medium and in the presence of EDTA. Temperature-dependent transformation in the shape of human erythrocytes occurred between two glass surfaces 0.1 mm apart, e.g., in a hemacytometer. With cells in blood diluted directly 200-times with isotonic saline crenation appeared at 32-36 degrees C. A sphero-echinocytic state prevailed at 34 degrees C and outside the temperature range of 32-36 degrees C the RBCs retained the shape of a biconcave disk. Cells responding to the 'glass effect' even at temperatures below the transition region did not respond further at elevated temperatures. The 'glass effect' was found to be dependent on the RBC concentration (hematocrit). Raising this concentration reversibly decreased the degree of crenation. The amount of endogenous albumin present was estimated to be insufficient to cover the exposed glass surfaces with a protein monolayer. With washed cells over a wide concentration range, approximately the same total amount of albumin (serum) had to be present to avoid crenation, as long as observation was performed at a fixed low cell concentration. The effect of albumin was not abolished by gamma-globulin or anti-human albumin IgG. The discocyte-stabilizing influence of albumin is discussed.

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