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Drag-reducing polymers diminish near-wall concentration of platelets in microchannel blood flow.
The accumulation of platelets near the blood vessel wall or artificial surface is an important factor in the cascade of events responsible for coagulation and/or thrombosis. In small blood vessels and flow channels this phenomenon has been attributed to the blood phase separation that creates a red blood cell (RBC)-poor layer near the wall. We hypothesized that blood soluble drag-reducing polymers (DRP), which were previously shown to lessen the near-wall RBC depletion layer in small channels, may consequently reduce the near-wall platelet excess. This study investigated the effects of DRP on the lateral distribution of platelet-sized fluorescent particles (diam. = 2 μm, 2.5 × 10⁸/ml) in a glass square microchannel (width and depth = 100 μm). RBC suspensions in PBS were mixed with particles and driven through the microchannel at flow rates of 6-18 ml/h with and without added DRP (10 ppm of PEO, MW = 4500 kDa). Microscopic flow visualization revealed an elevated concentration of particles in the near-wall region for the control samples at all tested flow rates (between 2.4 ± 0.8 times at 6 ml/h and 3.3 ± 0.3 times at 18 ml/h). The addition of a minute concentration of DRP virtually eliminated the near-wall particle excess, effectively resulting in their even distribution across the channel, suggesting a potentially significant role of DRP in managing and mitigating thrombosis.