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Two-Component Coarse-Grain Model for Erythrocyte Membrane

[+] Author Affiliations
George Lykotrafitis, He Li

University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT

Paper No. IMECE2011-62133, pp. 207-212; 6 pages
  • ASME 2011 International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition
  • Volume 8: Mechanics of Solids, Structures and Fluids; Vibration, Acoustics and Wave Propagation
  • Denver, Colorado, USA, November 11–17, 2011
  • Conference Sponsors: ASME
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-5494-5
  • Copyright © 2011 by ASME


Biological membranes are vital components of living cells as they function to maintain the structural integrity of the cells. Red blood cell (RBC) membrane comprises the lipid bilayer and the cytoskeleton network. The lipid bilayer consists of phospholipids, integral membrane proteins, peripheral proteins and cholesterol. It behaves as a 2D fluid. The cytoskeleton is a network of spectrin tetramers linked at the actin junctions. It is connected to the lipid bilayer primarily via Band-3 and ankyrin proteins. In this paper, we introduce a coarse-grained model with high computational efficiency for simulating a variety of dynamic and topological problems involving erythrocyte membranes. Coarse-grained agents are used to represent a cluster of lipid molecules and proteins with a diameter on the order of lipid bilayer thickness and carry both translational and rotational freedom. The membrane cytoskeleton is modeled as a canonical exagonal network of entropic springs that behave as Worm-Like-Chains (WLC). By simultaneously invoking these characteristics, the proposed model facilitates simulations that span large length-scales (∼ μm) and time-scales (∼ ms). The behavior of the model under shearing at different rates is studied. At low strain rates, the resulted shear stress is mainly due to the spectrin network and it shows the characteristic non-linear behavior of entropic networks, while the viscosity of the fluid-like lipid bilayer contributes to the resulting shear stress at higher strain rates. The apparent ease of this model in combining the spectrin network with the lipid bilayer presents a major advantage over conventional continuum methods such as finite element or finite difference methods for cell membranes.

Copyright © 2011 by ASME



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