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Original Research ARTICLE

Front. Physiol. | doi: 10.3389/fphys.2020.566273

Local versus global blood flow modulation in artificial microvascular networks: effects on red blood cell distribution and partitioning Provisionally accepted The final, formatted version of the article will be published soon. Notify me

  • 1ARTORG Center for Biomedical Engineering Research, Faculty of Medicine, University of Bern, Switzerland
  • 2Integrated Actuators Laboratory, Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, Switzerland

Our understanding of cerebral blood flow (CBF) regulation during functional activation is still limited. Alongside with the accepted role of smooth muscle cells in controlling the arteriolar diameter, a new hypothesis has been recently formulated suggesting that CBF may be modulated by capillary diameter changes mediated by pericytes. In this study, we developed in vitro microvascular network models featuring a valve enabling the dilation of a specific micro-channel. This allowed us to investigate the non-uniform red blood cell (RBC) partitioning at microvascular bifurcations (phase separation) and the hematocrit distribution at rest and for two scenarios modeling capillary and arteriolar dilation. RBC partitioning showed similar phase separation behavior during baseline and activation. Results indicated that the RBCs at diverging bifurcations generally enter the high-flow branch (classical partitioning). Inverse behavior (reverse partitioning) was observed for skewed hematocrit profiles in the parent vessel of bifurcations, especially for high RBC velocity (i.e. arteriolar activation). Moreover, results revealed that a local capillary dilation, as it may be mediated in vivo by pericytes, led to a localized increase of RBC flow and a heterogeneous hematocrit redistribution within the whole network. In case of a global increase of the blood flow, as it may be achieved by dilating an arteriole, a homogeneous increase of RBC flow as observed in the whole network and the RBCs were concentrated along preferential pathways. In conclusion, overall increase of RBC flow could be obtained by arteriolar and capillary dilation, but only capillary dilation was found to alter the perfusion locally and heterogeneously.

Keywords: cerebral blood flow, red blood cells, Phase Separation, neurovascular coupling, Pericytes

Received: 27 May 2020; Accepted: 12 Aug 2020.

Copyright: © 2020 Mantegazza, Ungari, Clavica and Obrist. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Mx. Alberto Mantegazza, ARTORG Center for Biomedical Engineering Research, Faculty of Medicine, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland,