The rheologic properties of senescent erythrocytes have been examined using two models of red blood cell (RBC) aging. In the rabbit, aged erythrocytes were isolated after biotinylation, in vivo aging, and subsequent recovery on an avidin support. Aged RBCs from the mouse were obtained using the Ganzoni hypertransfusion model that suppresses erythropoiesis for prolonged periods of time allowing preexisting cells to age in vivo. In both cases, the aged erythrocytes were found by ektacytometry to have decreased deformability due to diminished surface area and cellular dehydration. The aged rabbit erythrocytes were further characterized by micropipette methods that documented an average surface area decrease of 10.5% and a volume decrease of 8.4% for the cells that were 50 days old. Because both the surface area and volume decreased with cell age, there was little change in surface-to- volume ratio (sphericity) during aging. The aged cells were found to have normal membrane elasticity. In addition, human RBCs were fractionated over Stractan density gradients and the most dense cells were found to have rheologic properties similar to those reported for the aged RBCs from rabbits and mice, although the absolute magnitude of the changes in surface area and volume were considerably greater for the human cells. Thus, stringent density fractionation protocols that result in isolation of the most dense 1% of cells can produce a population of human cells with rheologic properties similar to senescent cells obtained in other species. The data indicate that progressive loss of cell area and cell dehydration are characteristic features of cell aging.

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