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Biorheology. 1997 May-Jun;34(3):235-47.

Cellular determinants of low-shear blood viscosity.

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Department of Physiology and Biophysics, USC School of Medicine, Los Angeles, California 90033, USA.


Low-shear viscometry is one of the methods commonly used to estimate the degree of red blood cell (RBC) aggregation in various bloods and RBC suspensions. However, it has been previously shown that alterations in RBC morphology and mechanical behavior can affect the low-shear apparent viscosity of RBC suspensions; RBC aggregation is also sensitive to these cellular factors. This study used heat treatment (48 degrees C, 5 min), glutaraldehyde (0.005-0.02%) and hydrogen peroxide (1 mM) to modify cell geometry and deformability. Red blood cell aggregation was assessed via a Myrenne Aggregometer ("M" and "MI" indexes), RBC suspension viscosity was measured using a Contraves LS-30 viscometer, and RBC shape response to fluid shear stresses (i.e., deformability) was determined by ektacytometry (LORCA system). Our results indicate that low-shear apparent viscosity and related indexes may not always reflect changes of RBC aggregation if cellular properties are altered: for situations where RBC aggregation has been only moderately affected, cellular mechanical factors may be the major determinant of low-shear viscosity. These findings thus imply that in situations which may be associated alterations of RBC geometry and/or deformability, low-shear viscometry should not be the sole measurement technique used to assess RBC aggregation.

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