A computational model for the transit of a cancer cell through a constricted microchannel

Z. Wang, R. Lu, W. Wang, F. B. Tian, J. J. Feng & Y. Sui

J. Fluid Mech. (Submitted 2022).

Abstract - We propose a three-dimensional computational model to simulate the transient deformation of suspended cancer cells flowing through a constricted microchannel. We model the cell as a liquid droplet enclosed by a viscoelastic membrane, and its nucleus as a smaller stiffer capsule. The cell deformation and its interaction with the suspending fluid are solved through a well-tested immersed-boundary lattice Boltzmann method. To identify a minimal mechanical model that can quantitatively predict the transient cell deformation in a constricted channel, we conduct extensive parametric studies of the effects of the rheology of the cell membrane, cytoplasm and nucleus, and compare the results with a recent experiment conducted on human leukaemia cells. We find that excellent agreement with the experiment can be achieved by employing a viscoelastic cell membrane model with the membrane viscosity depending on its mode of deformation (shear versus elongation). The cell nucleus limits the overall deformation of the whole cell, and its effect increases with the nucleus size. The present computational model may be used to guide the design of microfluidic devices to sort cancer cells, or to inversely infer cell mechanical properties from their flow-induced deformation.