A Particle Based Model for Healthy and Malaria Infected Red Blood Cells

Speaker: James J. Feng

Date: Thu, May 3, 2012

Location: PIMS, University of British Columbia

Conference: Mathematical Cell Biology Summer Course

Subject: Mathematics, Mathematical Biology

Class: Scientific


In this talk, I will describe a smoothed particle hydrodynamics method for simulating the motion and deformation of red blood cells. After validating the model and numerical method using the dynamics of healthy red cells in shear and channel flows, we focus on the loss of red cell deformability as a result of malaria infection. The current understanding ascribes the loss of RBC deformability to a 10-fold increase in membrane stiffness caused by extra cross-linking in the spectrin network. Local measurements by micropipette aspiration, however, have reported only an increase of about 3-fold in the shear modulus. We believe the discrepancy stems from the rigid parasite particles inside infected cells, and have carried out 3D numerical simulations of RBC stretching tests by optical tweezers to demonstrate this mechanism. Our results show that the presence of a sizeable parasite greatly reduces the ability of RBCs to deform under stretching. Thus, the previous interpretation of RBC-deformation data in terms of membrane stiffness alone is flawed. With the solid inclusion, the apparently contradictory data can be reconciled, and the observed loss of deformability can be predicted quantitatively using the local membrane elasticity measured by micropipettes.