Computational fluid dynamic simulation of aggregation of deformable cells in a shear flow

Prosenjit Bagchi, Paul C. Johnson, Aleksander S. Popel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

146 Scopus citations


We present computational fluid dynamic (CFD) simulation of aggregation of two deformable cells in a shear flow. This work is motivated by an attempt to develop computational models of aggregation of red blood cells (RBCs). Aggregation of RBCs is a major determinant of blood viscosity in microcirculation under physiological and pathological conditions. Deformability of the RBCs plays a major role in determining their aggregability. Deformability depends on the viscosity of the cytoplasmic fluid and on the rigidity of the cell membrane, in a macroscopic sense. This paper presents a computational study of RBC aggregation that takes into account the rheology of the cells as well as cell-cell adhesion kinetics. The simulation technique considered here is two dimensional and based on the front tracking/immersed boundary method for multiple fluids. Results presented here are on the dynamic events of aggregate formation between two cells, and its subsequent motion, rolling, deformation, and breakage. We show that the rheological properties of the cells have significant effects on the dynamics of the aggregate. A stable aggregate is formed at higher cytoplasmic viscosity and membrane rigidity. We also show that the bonds formed between the cells change in a cyclic manner as the aggregate rolls in a shear flow. The cyclic behavior is related to the rolling orientation of the aggregate. The frequency and amplitude of oscillation in the number of bonds also depend on the rheological properties.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1070-1080
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Biomechanical Engineering
Issue number7
StatePublished - Dec 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Physiology (medical)


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