Student projects

Determining indicators of erythrocyte damage in vitro

Heart failure is a global public health issue with more than 23 million cases per year. Many patients with end-stage heart failure would require transplantation, but due to the shortage of donor hearts, mechanical circulatory support is often the therapy of choice. Among the employed systems, continuous flow left ventricular assist devices (LVAD) are the most prevalent and show the highest survival rates.

Even though such devices greatly improve patient outcome compared to no therapy, there are still many unresolved problems. One of them is mechanically induced hemolysis due to high shear rates, which leads to release of free hemoglobin into the blood plasma and ultimately to the destruction of the red blood cells (RBC). This effect may be reduced by optimization of the pump design with respect to shear rates and exposure time of RBCs to high shear.

In this project we aim to establish the methods required to quantify erythrocyte damage in-vitro. In microchannel experiments, RBCs will be exposed to shear stresses and shear stress gradients comparable to those occurring in ventricular assist devices. The goal of the setup is to quantify the resulting hemolysis as well as signs of RBC senescence and other RBC damage. This master thesis aims at identifying the most relevant parameters to measure and establishing the corresponding protocols.

This project is part of the Zurich Heart Project, a collaborative endeavor between the University Hospital, the University and ETH Zurich.


Master Thesis Project for Medical Students
Student: Kristina Koch
Start: 1st of February 2016
End: 31st of August 2016
Contact: For detailed information please contact Lena Wiegmann,, +41 44 635 50 56, or Vartan Kurtcuoglu,, +41 44 635 50 55

  • Figure