Calculations of oxygen transport by red blood cells and hemoglobin solutions in capillaries

Arjun Vadapalli, Daniel Goldman, Aleksander S. Popel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A theoretical model is developed to investigate the influence of hemoglobin-based oxygen carriers (HBOCs) on oxygen transport in capillary-size vessels. A discrete cell model is presented with red blood cells (RBCs) represented in their realistic parachute shape flowing in a single file through a capillary. The model includes the free and Hb-facilitated transport of O2 and Hb-O2 kinetics in the RBC and plasma, diffusion of free O2 in the suspending phase, capillary wall, interstitium and tissue. A constant tissue consumption rate is specified that drives the simultaneous release of O2 from RBC and plasma as the cells traverse the capillary. The model mainly focuses on low capillary hematocrits and studies the effect of free hemoglobin affinity, cooperativity and concentration. The results are expressed in the form of cell and capillary mass transfer coefficients, or inverse transport resistances, that relate the spatially averaged flux of O2 coming out of the RBC and capillary to a driving force for O2 diffusion. The results show that HBOCs at a concentration of 7 g/dl reduce the intracapillary transport resistance by as much as 60% when capillary hematocrit is 0.2. HBOCs with high O2 affinity unload most O2 at the venular end, while those with low affinity supply O2 at the arteriolar end. A higher cooperativity did not favor O2 delivery due to the large variation in the mass transfer coefficient values during O2 unloading. The mass transfer coefficients obtained will be used in simulations of O2 transport in complex capillary networks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)157-188
Number of pages32
JournalArtificial Cells, Blood Substitutes, and Immobilization Biotechnology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2002


  • Capillaries
  • Diffusion
  • Hemoglobin-based oxygen carriers
  • Microcirculation
  • Oxygen
  • RBC
  • Transport

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biomedical Engineering


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