Rigidity and stability of spheres in the Helfrich model

Yann Bernard, Glen Wheeler, Valentina Mira Wheeler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


The Helfrich functional, denoted by Hc0 , is a mathematical expression proposed by Helfrich (1973) for the natural free energy carried by an elastic phospholipid bilayer. Helfrich theorises that idealised elastic phospholipid bilayers minimise Hc0 among all possible configurations. The functional integrates a spontaneous curvature parameter c0 together with the mean curvature of the bilayer and constraints on area and volume, either through an inclusion of osmotic pressure difference and tensile stress or otherwise. Using the mathematical concept of embedded orientable surface to represent the configuration of the bilayer, one might expect to be able to adapt methods from differential geometry and the calculus of variations to perform a fine analysis of bilayer configurations in terms of the parameters that it depends upon. In this article we focus upon the case of spherical red blood cells with a view to better understanding spherocytes and spherocytosis. We provide a complete classification of spherical solutions in terms of the parameters in the Helfrich model. We additionally present some further analysis on the rigidity and stability of spherocytes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)495-523
Number of pages29
JournalInterfaces and Free Boundaries
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jan 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Biomembranes
  • Differential geometry
  • Helfrich model
  • Spherocytosis

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