Microfluidic Microcirculation Mimetic as a Tool for the Study of Rheological Characteristics of Red Blood Cells in Patients with Sickle Cell Anemia

Marcus Inyama Asuquo, Emmanuel Effa, Oluwabukola Gbotosho, Akaninyene Otu, Nicole Toepfner, Soter Ameh, Sruti Prathivadhi Bhayankaram, Noah Zetocha, Chisom Nwakama, William Egbe, Jochen Guck, Andrew Ekpenyong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Sickle cell disorder (SCD) is a multisystem disease with heterogeneous phenotypes. Al-though all patients have the mutated hemoglobin (Hb) in the SS phenotype, the severity and frequency of complications are variable. When exposed to low oxygen tension, the Hb molecule becomes dense and forms tactoids, which lead to the peculiar sickled shapes of the affected red blood cells, giving the disorder its name. This sickle cell morphology is responsible for the profound and widespread pathologies associated with this disorder, such as vaso-occlusive crisis (VOC). How much of the clinical manifestation is due to sickled erythrocytes and what is due to the relative contributions of other elements in the blood, especially in the microcapillary circulation, is usually not visualized and quantified for each patient during clinical management. Here, we used a microfluidic microcirculation mimetic (MMM), which has 187 capillary-like constrictions, to impose deformations on erythrocytes of 25 SCD patients, visualizing and characterizing the morpho-rheological properties of the cells in normoxic, hypoxic (using sodium meta-bisulfite) and treatment conditions (using hydroxyurea). The MMM enabled a patient-specific quantification of shape descriptors (circularity and roundness) and transit time through the capillary constrictions, which are readouts for morpho-rheological properties implicated in VOC. Transit times varied significantly (p < 0.001) between patients. Our results demonstrate the feasibility of microfluidics-based monitoring of individual patients for personalized care in the context of SCD complications such as VOC, even in resource-constrained settings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number4394
JournalApplied Sciences (Switzerland)
Issue number9
StatePublished - May 1 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Materials Science(all)
  • Instrumentation
  • Engineering(all)
  • Process Chemistry and Technology
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Fluid Flow and Transfer Processes


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