Red blood cells (RBCs) are known to form aggregates in the form of rouleaux due to the presence of plasma proteins under physiological conditions. The formation of rouleaux can also be induced in vitro by the addition of macromolecules to the RBC suspension. Current data on the adhesion strength between red blood cells in their natural discocyte shapes mostly originate from indirect measurements such as flow chamber experiments, but data is lacking at the single cell level. Here, we present measurements on the dextran-induced aggregation of red blood cells using atomic force microscopy-based single cell force spectroscopy. The effects of dextran concentration and molecular weight on the interaction energy of adhering RBCs were determined. The results on adhesion energy are in excellent agreement with a model based on the depletion effect and previous experimental studies. Furthermore, our method allowed to determine the adhesion force, a quantity that is needed in theoretical investigations on blood flow.
- Received 20 January 2012
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