Erythrocyte deformability was formerly measured by its contribution to whole blood viscosity. It is now more commonly measured by filtration of erythrocytes through, or aspiration into, pores of 3-5 microns diameter and by the measurement of shear induced erythrocyte elongation using laser diffractometry. Recent improvements in the technology for erythrocyte filtration have included the removal of acute phase reactants from test erythrocyte suspensions, ultrasonic cleaning and reuse of filter membranes, awareness of the importance of mean cell volume as a determinant of flow through 3 microns diameter pores, and the ability to detect subpopulations of less deformable erythrocytes. Measurements of erythrocyte elongation by laser diffractometry, using the Ektacytometer, are also influenced by cell size and need to be corrected for mean cell volume. These advances have greatly improved the sensitivity and specificity of rheological methods for measuring the deformability of erythrocytes and for investigating the mode of action of rheologically active drugs.
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