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The physiological functions of human red blood cells (RBCs) play a crucial role to human health and are greatly influenced by their mechanical properties. Any alteration of the cell mechanics may cause human diseases. The osmotic condition is an important factor to the physiological environment, but its effect on RBCs has been little studied. To investigate this effect, robotic manipulation technology with optical tweezers is utilized in this paper to characterize the mechanical properties of RBCs in different osmotic conditions. The effectiveness of this technology is demonstrated first in the manipulation of microbeads. Then the optical tweezers are used to stretch RBCs to acquire the force-deformation relationships. To extract cell properties from the experimental data, a mechanical model is developed for RBCs in hypotonic conditions by extending our previous work , and the finite element model is utilized for RBCs in isotonic and hypertonic conditions. Through comparing the modeling results to the experimental data, the shear moduli of RBCs in different osmotic solutions are characterized, which shows that the cell stiffness increases with elevated osmolality. Furthermore, the property variation and potential biomedical significance of this study are discussed. In conclusion, this study indicates that the osmotic stress has a significant effect on the cell properties of human RBCs, which may provide insight into the pathology analysis and therapy of some human diseases.
Date of Publication: July 2010