In vitro investigations of red blood cell phase separation in a complex microchannel network

Mantegazza, Alberto; Clavica, Francesco; Obrist, Dominik (2020). In vitro investigations of red blood cell phase separation in a complex microchannel network. Biomicrofluidics, 14(1), 014101. American Institute of Physics 10.1063/1.5127840

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Microvascular networks feature a complex topology with multiple bifurcating vessels. Nonuniform partitioning (phase separation) of red blood cells (RBCs) occurs at diverging bifurcations, leading to a heterogeneous RBC distribution that ultimately affects the oxygen delivery to living tissues. Our understanding of the mechanisms governing RBC heterogeneity is still limited, especially in large networks where the RBC dynamics can be nonintuitive. In this study, our quantitative data for phase separation were obtained in a complex in vitro network with symmetric bifurcations and 176 microchannels. Our experiments showed that the hematocrit is heterogeneously distributed and confirmed the classical result that the branch with a higher blood fraction received an even higher RBC fraction (classical partitioning). An inversion of this classical phase separation (reverse partitioning) was observed in the case of a skewed hematocrit profile in the parent vessels
of bifurcations. In agreement with a recent computational study [P. Balogh and P. Bagchi, Phys. Fluids 30,051902 (2018)], a correlation between the RBC reverse partitioning and the skewness of the hematocrit profile due to sequential converging and diverging bifurcations was reported. A flow threshold below which no RBCs enter a branch was identified. These results highlight the importance of considering the RBC flow history and the local RBC distribution to correctly describe the RBC phase separation in complex networks.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


10 Strategic Research Centers > ARTORG Center for Biomedical Engineering Research > ARTORG Center - Cardiovascular Engineering (CVE)

Graduate School:

Graduate School for Cellular and Biomedical Sciences (GCB)

UniBE Contributor:

Mantegazza, Alberto, Clavica, Francesco, Obrist, Dominik


600 Technology > 610 Medicine & health
600 Technology > 620 Engineering




American Institute of Physics


[4] Swiss National Science Foundation




Alberto Mantegazza

Date Deposited:

21 Jan 2020 15:42

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 15:35

Publisher DOI:


PubMed ID:





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