Is the Donnan effect sufficient to explain swelling in brain tissue slices?
Lang GE., Stewart PS., Vella D., Waters SL., Goriely A.
Brain tissue swelling is a dangerous consequence of traumatic injury and is associated with raised intracranial pressure and restricted blood flow. We consider the mechanical effects that drive swelling of brain tissue slices in an ionic solution bath, motivated by recent experimental results that showed that the volume change of tissue slices depends on the ionic concentration of the bathing solution. This result was attributed to the presence of large charged molecules that induce ion concentration gradients to ensure electroneutrality (the Donnan effect), leading to osmotic pressures and water accumulation. We use a mathematical triphasic model for soft tissue to characterize the underlying processes that could lead to the volume changes observed experimentally. We suggest that swelling is caused by an osmotic pressure increase driven by both non-permeating solutes released by necrotic cells, in addition to the Donnan effect. Both effects are necessary to explain the dependence of the tissue slice volume on the ionic bath concentration that was observed experimentally.