A Novel Instrument for Studying the Flow Behaviour of Erythrocytes through Microchannels Simulating Human
A novel instrument has been developed to study the microrheology of erythrocytes as they flow through channels of dimensions similar to human blood capillaries. The channels are produced in silicon substrates using microengineering technology. Accurately defined, physiological driving pressures and temperatures are employed whilst precise, real-time image processing allows individual cells to be monitored continuously during their transit. The instrument characterises each cell in a sample of ca. 1000 in terms of its volume and flow velocity profile during its transit through a channel. The unique representation of the data in volume/velocity space provides new insights into the microrheological behaviour of blood. The image processing and subsequent data analysis enable the system to reject anomalous events such as multiple cell transits, thereby ensuring integrity of the resulting data. By employing an array of microfluidic flow channels we can integrate a number of different but precise and highly reproducible channel sizes and geometries within one array, thereby allowing multiple, concurrent, isobaric measurements on one sample. As an illustration of the performance of the system, volume/velocity data sets recorded in a microfluidic device incorporating multiple channels of 100 μm length and individual widths ranging between 3.0 and 4.0 μm are presented.