Design of microfluidic channels for magnetic separation of malaria-infected red blood cells
This study is motivated by the development of a blood cell filtration device for removal of malaria-infected, parasitized red blood cells (pRBCs). The blood was modeled as a multi-component fluid using the computational fluid dynamics discrete element method (CFD-DEM), wherein plasma was treated as a Newtonian fluid and the red blood cells (RBCs) were modeled as soft-sphere solid particles which move under the influence of drag, collisions with other RBCs, and a magnetic force.
The CFD-DEM model was first validated by a comparison with experimental data from Han and Frazier (Lab Chip 6:265–273, 2006) involving a microfluidic magnetophoretic separator for paramagnetic deoxygenated blood cells. The computational model was then applied to a parametric study of a parallel-plate separator having hematocrit of 40 % with 10 % of the RBCs as pRBCs. Specifically, we investigated the hypothesis of introducing an upstream constriction to the channel to divert the magnetic cells within the near-wall layer where the magnetic force is greatest. Simulations compared the efficacy of various geometries upon the stratification efficiency of the pRBCs.
For a channel with nominal height of 100 µm, the addition of an upstream constriction of 80 % improved the proportion of pRBCs retained adjacent to the magnetic wall (separation efficiency) by almost twofold, from 26 to 49 %. Further addition of a downstream diffuser reduced remixing and hence improved separation efficiency to 72 %. The constriction introduced a greater pressure drop (from 17 to 495 Pa), which should be considered when scaling up this design for a clinical-sized system. Overall, the advantages of this design include its ability to accommodate physiological hematocrit and high throughput, which is critical for clinical implementation as a blood-filtration system.
Keywords: blood, malaria, microchannels, magnetic field, cell separation.