Multifunctional nanomedicine holds considerable promise as the next generation of medicine that allows for targeted therapy with minimal toxicity. Most current studies on nanoparticle (NP) drug delivery consider a Newtonian fluid with suspending NPs. However, blood is a complex biological fluid composed of deformable cells, proteins, platelets, and plasma. For blood flow in capillaries, arterioles and venules, the particulate nature of the blood needs to be considered in the delivery process. The existence of the cell-free-layer and NP–cell interaction will largely influence both the dispersion and binding rates, thus impact targeted delivery efficacy. In this paper, a particle–cell hybrid model is developed to model NP transport, dispersion, and binding dynamics in blood suspension. The motion and deformation of red blood cells (RBCs) is captured through the Immersed Finite Element Method. The motion and adhesion of individual NPs are tracked through Brownian adhesion dynamics. A mapping algorithm and an interaction potential function are introduced to consider the cell–particle collision. NP dispersion and binding rates are derived from the developed model under various rheology conditions. The influence of red blood cells, vascular flow rate, and particle size on NP distribution and delivery efficacy is characterized. A non-uniform NP distribution profile with higher particle concentration near the vessel wall is observed. Such distribution leads to over 50% higher particle binding rate compared to the case without RBC considered. The tumbling motion of RBCs in the core region of the capillary is found to enhance NP dispersion, with dispersion rate increasing as shear rate increases. Results from this study contribute to the fundamental understanding and knowledge on how the particulate nature of blood influences NP delivery, which will provide mechanistic insights on the nanomedicine design for targeted drug delivery applications.
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