Blood

Centre for Innovation awards funding to support young researchers and improve blood product use


Friday, November 29, 2019

The Canadian Blood Services Centre for Innovation recently awarded successful applicants to the following funding competitions: 

The Postdoctoral Fellowship Program offers salary support for young investigators. Congratulations to the successful candidates:  

  • Dr. Ruqayyah Almizraq (University of Toronto, training in Dr. Donald Branch’s laboratory): “Development of a drug to replace IVIg, and ADCC as cause for unexplained hemolysis post-transfusion” 

  • Dr. Yfke Pasman (St. Michael’s Hospital; training in Dr. Heyu Ni’s laboratory): “Reducing IVIG usage by developing novel prophylaxis and therapies against FNAIT” 

The Blood Efficiency Accelerator Award Program (or BEAP) aims to improve the efficient and appropriate utilization of blood products, while maintaining the safety of the blood system. Congratulations to the successful candidates: 

  • Dr. Dana Devine (Canadian Blood Services & The University of British Columbia): “Measurement of heavy metals in donor blood in Canada” 

  • Dr. Donald Arnold (McMaster University & McMaster Centre for Transfusion Research): “A study to understand C1 Esterase Inhibitor distribution and patterns of use in Canada” 

  • Dr. Ziad Solh (Western University): “Are cervical cancer brachytherapy outcomes associated with pre-brachytherapy hemoglobin values and transfusion practice? An observational study comparing two academic centres” 

Learn more about our current and previously funded research projects here

Call for applications! 

Do you have an idea that might improve the efficient and appropriate use of blood products? The BEAP competition is currently open with a deadline for receipt of applications of January 24, 2020. 

Coming soon! Keep an eye on our research funding opportunities page for the opening of the latest Intramural Research Grant Program competition (announcement expected mid-December 2019). 

To stay informed about Canadian Blood Services’ Centre for Innovation funding opportunities, please sign up for our Research & Education newsletter.  


Canadian Blood Services – Driving world-class innovation

Through discovery, development and applied research, Canadian Blood Services drives world-class innovation in blood transfusion, cellular therapy and transplantation—bringing clarity and insight to an increasingly complex healthcare future. Our dedicated research team and extended network of partners engage in exploratory and applied research to create new knowledge, inform and enhance best practices, contribute to the development of new services and technologies, and build capacity through training and collaboration. Find out more about our research impact

The opinions reflected in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Canadian Blood Services nor do they reflect the views of Health Canada or any other funding agency.

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AABB 2019 – A knowledge infusion for our trainees!


Thursday, November 14, 2019

 

Narges & Olga at AABB 2019 in San Antonio
Narges & Olga at AABB 2019 in San Antonio

The AABB Annual Meeting is a must-attend event for those in the fields of transfusion medicine and cellular therapies. AABB 2019 took place last month in San Antonio, Texas. Canadian Blood Services’ trainees, Dr. Narges Hadjesfandiari (University of British Columbia) and Dr. Olga Mykhailova (University of Alberta), were there and report back on their meeting highlights.

Narges:

Narges receiving her award for “2019 Outstanding Abstract Award for Trainees” at AABB 2019
Narges (centre) receiving her award for “2019 Outstanding Abstract Award for Trainees” at AABB 2019

I really enjoyed the combination of specialized sessions that directly related to my research plus multiple more general sessions. The oral session: “Red Blood Cell Storage: The Oxygen Paradox” and the posters in this area inspired me to do more and work faster when I am back in the laboratory! “Blood Bank Mythbusters” and “Beyond Conventional: Controversial Uses of Blood Components,” on the other hand, were two eye-opener sessions and a knowledge infusion to my blood banking brain.

AABB 2019 also gave me the opportunity to finally meet face-to-face with Canadian Blood Services’ scientists, trainees and administrative staff whose everyday work has inspired and helped me, but who I knew only by name before.

I had the opportunity to present a poster entitled “Cryoprecipitate for Adults – How Important Is It to Match for Blood Type” and give an oral presentation on “Time to Production is Among the Factors Affecting Red Blood Cell Storage Hemolysis" at AABB 2019.

Congratulations to Narges, from Dr. Dana Devine's lab, who won "2019 Outstanding Abstract Award for Trainees" for her oral presentation at AABB 2019. This presentation was also highlighted on the AABB blog.

Olga:

Olga presenting her poster at AABB 2019
Olga presenting her poster at AABB 2019

As a postdoctoral fellow at Dr. Jason Acker’s laboratory, one of our main areas of research is understanding the aging of different subpopulations of stored red blood cells depending on donor sex, age and other factors. Therefore, it was very interesting to me that lots of speakers at AABB 2019 addressed the fact that progression and severity of the storage lesion – the gradual loss of quality of red blood cells during storage before transfusion – varies depending on donor characteristics.

Dr. Angelo D’Alessandro (University of Colorado) spoke about how donor biology impacts oxidative stress and other metabolic changes during red blood cell storage. Together with Dr. Richard Francis (Columbia University), he hypothesized that storing red blood cells under low-oxygen conditions may be a reasonable approach to improve their storage quality.

It was a great pleasure for me to attend a keynote speech of Yancey Strickler, the co-founder of Kickstarter, who shared with the audience the idea of “Bento Box for Your Values”. Strickler believes that everyone can easily define themselves and their values by filling the four boxes of bento: “now me” (short-term, personal goals), “now us” (short-term, collective goals), “future me" (long-term, personal goals) and “future us” (long-term collective goals). This idea is an integral part of sustaining powerful public-benefit corporations, such as Kickstarter.

I also had the opportunity to present a poster about my work: “RBC Subpopulations in Stored Concentrates Have Different Quality Characteristics”.

Want to learn more about the exciting advances and discoveries shared at AABB 2019? Check out the AABB blog. Many of their October posts focus on the Annual Meeting.


Canadian Blood Services – Driving world-class innovation

Through discovery, development and applied research, Canadian Blood Services drives world-class innovation in blood transfusion, cellular therapy and transplantation—bringing clarity and insight to an increasingly complex healthcare future. Our dedicated research team and extended network of partners engage in exploratory and applied research to create new knowledge, inform and enhance best practices, contribute to the development of new services and technologies, and build capacity through training and collaboration. Find out more about our research impact

The opinions reflected in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Canadian Blood Services nor do they reflect the views of Health Canada or any other funding agency.

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The science behind young blood


Thursday, October 31, 2019

Drinking the blood of the young, and thereby somehow capturing their youth, is a common literary trope. The ghoulish notion speaks to our cultural fascination with youth, but also to our dread of aging.

There’s no evidence-based therapy using the blood of young people to counteract or prevent the effects of aging, but young blood is an area where science might be beginning to imitate art — at least, sort of.

“When we talk about young blood, we’re really talking about two streams of work,” says Dr. Jason Acker, a senior scientist at Canadian Blood Services’ Centre for Innovation and professor at University of Alberta.

“There’s the more conventional work, looking at how donor factors influence characteristics of blood and outcomes for patients, then there’s another, perhaps more controversial one looking at whether blood from young donors can rejuvenate older patients.”

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Acker is doing the first stream of work. His team has been the first to show that red blood cells from young women are hardier and younger on average than those of men, and less likely to die during storage in the blood bag. This doesn’t necessarily lead to better outcomes for patients, though – that’s why Acker’s supporting a randomized control trial involving thousands of patients. The trial is tracking outcomes between sex-matched blood transfusions (i.e. female to female or male to male) and sex-mismatched transfusions.

The other type of work is born from studies that showed if you take a young rat and attach its circulation to an older rat (called “parabiosis”), the older rat got healthier and showed signs of rejuvenation. Was it getting younger?

“That kickstarted a renewed fascination with whether blood from young donors can rejuvenate older recipients,” says Acker. “Now there’s an explosion of research in the biology of aging, and we know there are naturally occurring molecules in the blood of young mice that, when injected into older mice, reproduces many of the regenerating effects from the parabiosis studies.”

The discovery of one of these molecules, growth differentiation factor 11 (GDF11), became one of the journal Science’s top 10 breakthroughs of the year in 2014.

“So something that was originally presented in a very controversial way is now seeing science catch up as we identify new things,” Acker says.

There’s a lot of work going on in these areas, but these studies are with animals not people, and there is no proven safe and effective therapy to prevent or undo aging using young blood. This doesn’t stop some from trying, though — companies in the United States have offered “young plasma” transfusions under the guise of clinical trials, costing thousands of dollars to the recipient.

In summary, consider starving a vampire this spooky season by donating blood, and avoid unproven expensive “therapies” — because those are really scary. Happy Halloween!

A graphic of a beaker with bats flying out of it, and the words "The science behind young blood"

Canadian Blood Services – Driving world-class innovation

Through discovery, development and applied research, Canadian Blood Services drives world-class innovation in blood transfusion, cellular therapy and transplantation—bringing clarity and insight to an increasingly complex healthcare future. Our dedicated research team and extended network of partners engage in exploratory and applied research to create new knowledge, inform and enhance best practices, contribute to the development of new services and technologies, and build capacity through training and collaboration. Find out more about our research impact

The opinions reflected in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Canadian Blood Services nor do they reflect the views of Health Canada or any other funding agency.

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Dr. Donald Branch honoured by AABB for his career achievements


Thursday, November 07, 2019

Dr. Donald Branch’s career shows a scientist driven by intellectual curiosity. From Gila monster venom to crocodile blood, from HIV to Ebola to huge discoveries improving outcomes for transfusion and transplantation patients, he pursues scientific questions and embraces all the twists and turns that path of inquiry may take.  

“There’s always something new that keeps the interest going,” he says. “It’s pretty hard to figure out nature — it has a way of throwing a wrench in things just when you think you have an answer. Then you have to keep looking. There’s always a new angle, a new hypothesis, that keeps you from getting bored.” 

Last month, Dr. Branch, a scientist at Canadian Blood Services’ Centre for Innovation and professor at the University of Toronto, received a prestigious international award honouring his more than 40 years of major contributions to transfusion medicine and hematology.  

At this year’s annual meeting of AABB, an international organization representing people and institutions involved in transfusion medicine and cellular therapies, Dr. Branch received the Tibor Greenwalt Memorial Award. It’s his third award from AABB, but he says he isn’t in it for the accolades.  

“As a scientist, we don’t do our work thinking we’re going to get any awards. I do my science because I like it. It’s fun, interesting and exciting at times; and you get to think of new questions about what is important in biological sciences and how things work,” he says.  

“It’s nice to get an award, because it says what you’ve been doing for fun these last 40 years has paid off — people have found value in it. You have to have a thick skin in research. You have to be able to accept rejection and criticism, especially when you’re writing grants and papers. The work itself is interesting and exciting, but trying to advance the field can be difficult. When you actually get an award for something you’ve done, it’s meaningful because it represents years of hard work and overcoming some of the criticisms and roadblocks along the way.”  

Dr. Branch’s proudest accomplishment is being the first scientist to describe mixed hematopoietic chimerism, a state where after a bone marrow transplant both the recipient and donor’s cells exist together harmoniously in the blood. Published in 1982, Dr. Branch’s finding has been confirmed and generated more than 1200 related publications. Where there is mixed hematopoietic chimerism, there is little if any graft-versus-host disease, and this fact has led other scientists to explore this phenomenon for recipients of other types of transplants, such as hearts, livers, lungs, and kidneys. Introducing mixed hematopoietic chimerism into transplant recipients may lead to them not needing anti-rejection medication.  

“The general thinking at the time was that following bone marrow transplantation where myeloablation (a severe reduction in the ability of a patient’s bone marrow to produce new blood cells) was the protocol, if you begin to see the blood cells increasing in population, you’ve obtained engraftment of the donor stem cells. I found this wasn’t necessarily true. You could have the patient’s own stem cells come back and repopulate the patient, sometimes with no donor cells detectable for long periods of time; so, more genetic testing needed to be done to determine which cells, the patient’s or the donor’s, or both were coming back. This finding was something very new; this was the first time it had been reported,” he says.  

What’s next for Dr. Branch? He has many projects on the go, including one investigating whether HIV/AIDS could be a neuropeptide disease, and another looking at a little-understood phenomenon in some sickle cell disease patients. Many sickle cell patients require regular blood transfusions. After a red blood cell transfusion, hemoglobin levels typically increase and taper off gradually over time. Hyperhemolysis is a life-threatening reaction to blood transfusions in sickle cell patients where instead of staying increased, hemoglobin increases briefly, then crashes lower than even the initial level. This can happen within a matter of hours, and with further transfusions it can happen repeatedly.  

“We don’t know why this happens to some patients, so I’m working to figure out this mechanism,” says Dr. Branch. “If we know why and how this happens, maybe we can figure out how to prevent it.”   

Read the AABB blog to learn more about Dr. Branch’s many contributions to transfusion medicine and hematology.  

Dr. Donald Branch holds his award at the AABB annual meeting in San Antonio
Dr. Donald Branch holds the Tibor Greenwalt Memorial Award at the AABB annual meeting in San Antonio. (Photo: Chantale Pambrun)

Canadian Blood Services – Driving world-class innovation

Through discovery, development and applied research, Canadian Blood Services drives world-class innovation in blood transfusion, cellular therapy and transplantation—bringing clarity and insight to an increasingly complex healthcare future. Our dedicated research team and extended network of partners engage in exploratory and applied research to create new knowledge, inform and enhance best practices, contribute to the development of new services and technologies, and build capacity through training and collaboration. Find out more about our research impact

The opinions reflected in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Canadian Blood Services nor do they reflect the views of Health Canada or any other funding agency.

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Lay Science Writing Competition open for submissions!


Tuesday, October 01, 2019

Stories underlie all research experiences, and we want to hear them! The 2019 Canadian Blood Services’ Lay Science Writing Competition launches today and is open for submissions until Nov. 29, 2019. This year’s theme is “Stories worth telling”. We’re delighted to once again partner with science communication and research leaders Science Borealis and the Centre for Blood Research at the University of British Columbia to host this competition. 

This is an opportunity for research trainees in the Canadian Blood Services research network, including those at UBC’s Centre for Blood Research and, new this year, the UBC School of Biomedical Engineering, to test their plain writing skills. Submissions should use clear language to describe “Stories worth telling” in the areas of blood, plasma, stem cells or organs and tissues research. Submissions will be judged not just for their clear language, but also on their use of storytelling or narrative techniques to describe the research and the story behind the research. Consider what elements make a good story. Add a human angle or other details that readers will be able to relate to. Tell us about the people behind the research, the impact of the work, the journey, the emotional highs and lows! 

The winning writer will receive a $300 prize and the two runners-up will each receive a $100 prize. Selected entries will be disseminated through the Canadian Blood Services, Science Borealis and the Centre for Blood Research's online platforms and social media channels. 

Please note, the work must be original and not previously published. Click here to access the competition guidelines and the application form. If you have questions, please contact the Centre for Innovation by email at centreforinnovation@blood.ca  

The very best of luck! 

STORIES WORTH TELLING! Canadian Blood Services’ Centre for Innovation presents Lay Science Writing Competition 2019-20 Call for Submissions Deadline: November 29, 2019 Use plain language to tell the story of your research in blood, plasma, stem cells or organs & tissues Open to members of the Canadian Blood Services extended research trainee network Find out more at blood.ca/research/funding-opportunities

Canadian Blood Services – Driving world-class innovation

Through discovery, development and applied research, Canadian Blood Services drives world-class innovation in blood transfusion, cellular therapy and transplantation—bringing clarity and insight to an increasingly complex healthcare future. Our dedicated research team and extended network of partners engage in exploratory and applied research to create new knowledge, inform and enhance best practices, contribute to the development of new services and technologies, and build capacity through training and collaboration. Find out more about our research impact

The opinions reflected in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Canadian Blood Services nor do they reflect the views of Health Canada or any other funding agency.

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Centre for Innovation scientist recognized for his contributions to the field of cryobiology


Thursday, September 19, 2019

Centre for Innovation scientist Dr. Jason Acker was recently inducted as a Fellow of the Society for Cryobiology, a prestigious international award that recognizes individuals who have had an exemplary impact on the field of cryobiology. Congratulations to Dr. Acker, who received this award over the summer at the Society for Cryobiology’s annual meeting in San Diego.

Dr Jason Acker holds his award in front of a banner for the Society for Cryobiology
Dr. Acker with the Basile J. Luyet medal.
What is cryobiology?

The Society for Cryobiology is the international society for low temperature biology and medicine. Cryobiology is the science of life at low temperatures. It includes the study of cells, organs, and tissues exposed to below normal temperatures. Cryobiology has many applications in the fields of transfusion and transplantation medicine. For example, plasma and red blood cells are frozen (cryopreserved) and platelets are stored at hypothermic temperatures so they can be stored for longer. Freeze-drying (lyophilization) is used to preserve plasma and plasma-derived medicines. Organs for transplantation are preserved under cold (hypothermic) conditions. Cryopreservation and lyophilization are not new processes, but they remain imperfect; freezing, thawing, and drying processes can result in cell or tissue damage. This affects that quality of the thawed cells and tissues. Researchers are continually working to better understand and improve cryopreservation processes.

What's Fellowship in the Society for Cryobiology?

Fellowship in the Society for Cryobiology is awarded to individuals who have made an outstanding and sustained impact on the field of cryobiology. Only 27 scientists have been granted this prestigious award, and Dr. Acker is one of only four Canadians to have been inducted as a Fellow in the society’s 55-year history.

Why was Dr. Acker recognized?

Dr. Acker has had a long-standing and enduring interest in the field of cryobiology, in particular cryopreservation, with publications in the area spanning the past two decades. His work has specifically focused on the development of intracellular protectants as a novel class of molecules that can protect cells and tissues during freezing and drying. Ice recrystallization within cells is the cause of much of the damage that occurs with freezing and thawing. Among other advances, Dr. Acker’s research has improved understanding of how these ice crystals form in cells and what can be done to prevent their formation. Dr. Acker and his team have investigated various “cryoprotectant” solutions that can be used to protect cells from the damage associated with cryopreservation.

Recently, together with his colleague Dr. Robert Ben, Dr. Acker has discovered a new way to prevent ice recrystallization in cells. He is currently working to further understand and develop this unique technology. This work may change the way blood products, stem cells and other cells, tissues and organs are stored in the future. Dr. Acker and his group are also interested in investigating the issues associated with cryopreservation and desiccation processes in the large-scale environment of a blood operator.

In addition to his scientific contributions, Dr. Acker has had extensive and long-standing service to the Society for Cryobiology. As a member since 1996, Dr. Acker served as editor of the society’s newsletter, editorial board member, committee chair, annual meeting co-chair, member of its Board of Governors, and most recently, as president. Through his role as president, Dr. Acker initiated a renewal of the society’s bylaws, committees and working groups, helped establish a permanent secretariat with the hiring of an executive director, and helped redevelop how annual meetings are structured and organized. Dr. Acker was recognized with the society’s highest honour because of his distinguished service to the Society, sustained scientific contributions to the field and his training of the next generation of cryobiologists.

What does this award mean to Dr. Acker?

In Dr. Acker’s own words:

”It is an incredible honour to be inducted as a Fellow of the Society for Cryobiology. I have been fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to contribute in a meaningful way to a very 'cool' science that has led to improvements in how we store biological materials for use in transfusion medicine, transplantation, biotechnology, and conservation biology. Through all of this I have had the privilege of working with an outstanding group of research collaborators, technicians, students and industrial partners to realize real impacts from our research. The most exciting thing about working in this area of science is that we are just now starting to see the benefits of more than 20 years of research from our group. The future is very exciting!”

 


Canadian Blood Services – Driving world-class innovation

Through discovery, development and applied research, Canadian Blood Services drives world-class innovation in blood transfusion, cellular therapy and transplantation—bringing clarity and insight to an increasingly complex healthcare future. Our dedicated research team and extended network of partners engage in exploratory and applied research to create new knowledge, inform and enhance best practices, contribute to the development of new services and technologies, and build capacity through training and collaboration. Find out more about our research impact

The opinions reflected in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Canadian Blood Services nor do they reflect the views of Health Canada or any other funding agency.

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From artificial intelligence to whale poop, and everything in between


Thursday, September 12, 2019

As Centre for Blood Research (CBR) director Dr. Edward Conway opened Research Day 2019, there was a frisson of nervous tension among the summer studentship trainees sitting in the jam-packed auditorium. These undergraduate students had spent the summer working in the laboratories of the University of British Columbia’s Centre for Blood Research (CBR) and School of Biomedical Engineering. Dr. Conway reminded them of the format for the afternoon; they would each get just 2.5 minutes to summarize their work for the audience. The squawk of a rubber chicken manned by Kevin the timekeeper would be the warning that their time was up.

And so began the rolling presentations. One after another, the students stood and presented their work on an incredibly diverse range of topics. From understanding the molecular mechanisms of breast cancer metastasis to developing microfluidic devices to analyze red blood cell deformability. From the perceived trustworthiness of artificial intelligence in medical decision-making to using social media to effectively communicate science. From 3D printing heart tissue to printing single cells using inkjet nozzles. From designing a low-cost handheld skin cancer detection device to analyzing how pumps for blood transfusions might impact the infused blood. There were thirty-five project presentations in less than two hours. But this daunting agenda delivered. Congratulations to all presenters who did a fantastic job of describing their research and keeping the audience engaged and informed.

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3.	Poster session at the CBR Research Day 2019
Poster session at the CBR Research Day 2019 (courtesy of the Centre for Blood Research)

This year for the first time, the CBR Summer Studentship Program was run in partnership with the School of Biomedical Engineering (SBME), an initiative which contributed to the diversity of topics presented. This partnership is a great fit, as noted by Dr. Conway:

“We are thrilled to have had the opportunity to welcome students from the School of Biomedical Engineering into the CBR’s Summer Studentship Program. With rapid developments in technology that contribute to the progress of medicine, constant and effective communication between biomedical engineers and life scientists is essential. I’ve had loads of feedback from this year's summer students, that they enjoyed this chance to “cross-fertilize”… we hope to expand the program!”

After the student presentations, keynote speaker Dave Ireland spoke. Ireland applies his decades of experience as a researcher and teacher to advocate for nature and the conservation of biodiversity. He has worked as a senior curator of conservation and the environment at Toronto Zoo and as the managing director of the Centre for Biodiversity at the Royal Ontario Museum. An advocate of citizen science, Ireland is also the founder of the Ontario BioBlitz, a community-based wildlife survey program that encourages public participation in science. A storyteller and communicator, Ireland asks big questions about how research can effect change in the world.

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2.	Keynote speaker, Dave Ireland, presenting at CBR Research Day 2019.
Keynote speaker Dave Ireland presenting at CBR Research Day 2019 (courtesy of the Centre for Blood Research).

By the end of Ireland’s engaging presentation, the audience had learned how whales and their poop could save the planet. Showing some impressive images of copious whale poop, Ireland described how massive phytoplankton blooms can grow around these discharges in the ocean. Whale poop is the ocean’s fertilizer. It recycles iron, an important nutrient for phytoplankton, the tiny organisms that are a major food source in marine ecologies. Like plants, phytoplankton produce oxygen and sequester carbon – linking whales and the delicate balance of the marine ecosystem directly with our planet's ability to adapt to and mitigate climate change.

CBR Research Day is the culmination of the Summer Studentship Program, and an opportunity to recognize the hard work of the summer students and all those in the laboratories who trained and supported them. After the talks, there was a poster session during which the summer students as well as graduate students and post-doctoral fellows affiliated with the CBR were given the opportunity to present their work and chat one-on-one with attendees. Prizes were given for the best poster and oral presentations, and the annual Neil Mackenzie Mentorship Excellence Award was presented.

The Centre for Innovation is proud to partner with the CBR on their Summer Studentship Program and to sponsor the CBR Research Day.

Thinking of becoming a summer student yourself?

The CBR-SMBE Summer Studentship Program provides undergraduate students with an opportunity to get hands-on lab experience. The student’s research work is guided by a principal investigator or postdoctoral fellow, and their experience is enhanced through research skills workshops, tours of campus facilities, and complementary social events.

Visit the Centre for Blood Research website for information and application details.

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1.	The summer students with CBR director, Dr. Ed Conway and keynote speaker, Dave Ireland
The summer students with CBR director, Dr. Ed Conway (far right), and keynote speaker, Dave Ireland (middle row, centre). Photo courtesy of the Centre for Blood Research.

Canadian Blood Services – Driving world-class innovation

Through discovery, development and applied research, Canadian Blood Services drives world-class innovation in blood transfusion, cellular therapy and transplantation—bringing clarity and insight to an increasingly complex healthcare future. Our dedicated research team and extended network of partners engage in exploratory and applied research to create new knowledge, inform and enhance best practices, contribute to the development of new services and technologies, and build capacity through training and collaboration. Find out more about our research impact

The opinions reflected in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Canadian Blood Services nor do they reflect the views of Health Canada or any other funding agency.

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Research trainees on why eligibility, donor care, and science blogging matter to them


Friday, September 06, 2019
The authors (l-r): Wenhui Li, Carly Olafson, and Anusha Sajja
This blog post's authors, Wenhui Li, Carly Olafson and Anusha Sajja

On the 30th of May 2019, an eager group of Canadian Blood Services trainees gathered In Calgary, Alta. for the Centre for Innovation’s Research Trainee Workshop. The day started with an in-depth look at donor eligibility, before moving on to a donor-focused tour of the clinic and concluding with a seminar on science blogging.

The experience prompted three attendees - Wenhui Li, Carly Olafson and Anusha Sajja - from the Acker Lab at Canadian Blood Services Edmonton to ask themselves the following:

What do the donation criteria mean to me, as a researcher? 

As trainees conducting research at Canadian Blood Services, we have a strong understanding of how vital donation criteria are to the safety of our national blood supply. Donor and recipient safety are paramount, and the criteria provide a structure to ensure the health of all Canadians. Canada is a diverse country and each donor is different from the next; our donor selection criteria, while rigid in their application, are always adapting to best serve Canadians. We understand that as researchers, our work can play a role in positive change to these criteria.

The donation criteria exist as a hefty heap of paper in a carefully arranged binder. As we flipped through those pages it became clear the immense amount of research that had gone into creating such a thorough guide for donor eligibility. It is our goal to put that same amount of care and meticulous detail into the work that we do in our laboratory.

Safeguard. Engage. Improve. These three words express Canadian Blood Services’ commitment to Canadians to maintain and protect the blood system. We choose to emulate these same values as we work to optimize the collection, processing, and storage of blood products through our research.

Learn more about donor eligibility criteria here.

What does donor care mean to me, as a researcher?

After delving into donor selection criteria, we stretched our legs on a tour of the donor centre. We were lucky enough to follow a platelet donor through the centre as he checked in and prepared for his donation. A cheerful greeting as he walked through the door, a comfortable chair to sit in while he waited, carefully worded questions: all to ensure his donor experience was as pleasant as possible.  Then we heard from the donor himself. He spoke about how he drove two hours to donate platelets after receiving a call that he was a match. The commitment and the sacrifice he made was astounding. We realized just how selfless these donors are and suddenly the intense care that goes into each donor experience made sense. They are giving part of themselves to save the life of a complete stranger; they deserve every ounce of comfort we can provide.

After the donor centre tour, Anusha Sajja recalled her time volunteering in a blood bank back in India where blood units for patients in need were often sought from relatives, as patients were unable to rely solely on the selfless donations of strangers. The country lacked an adequate supply of blood products to ensure the health of its citizens. The experience made it clear that our blood system is a unique and invaluable one, further emphasizing the need for outstanding donor care to ensure donors continue to contribute to the lifeline that is our blood system.

Learn more about Canadian Blood Services’ commitment to patient safety and to donors.

How can science blogging help us as researchers?

Writing as a researcher usually means reports, project proposals, theses, or grant applications. But what if we want more? What if we want to write about science not only for other scientists but also for the general population? That is where the art of blogging can provide the freedom to educate and inform, without the strict format that can come with other types of writing.

Centre for Innovation knowledge broker Geraldine Walsh encouraged us to share our research with a larger audience through blogging, with extra attention to using language that is not only informative but also accessible. After all, what good are any of our results if they aren’t shared with the world? Not everyone wants to trudge through journal articles, trying to decipher results, but most people have an innate curiosity that drives them to learn. That is where blogging fits into the world of scientific discovery; providing an avenue for all to learn about the research that we have put so much care into.

At the end of the day we all concluded that the Research Trainee Day was a huge success. We left feeling inspired; our minds were reinvigorated with the knowledge that what we do really does matter. The experience motivated us to delve into our research, knowing that we can contribute to positive change for donor selection and care. And lastly, we gained an appreciation for the art of blogging as a means to share our ideas and our discoveries with the world.

Attendees at the 2019 Research Trainee Workshop at the Eau Claire donor centre in Calgary
Attendees at the 2019 Research Trainee Workshop at the Eau Claire donor centre in Calgary


Canadian Blood Services – Driving world-class innovation

Through discovery, development and applied research, Canadian Blood Services drives world-class innovation in blood transfusion, cellular therapy and transplantation—bringing clarity and insight to an increasingly complex healthcare future. Our dedicated research team and extended network of partners engage in exploratory and applied research to create new knowledge, inform and enhance best practices, contribute to the development of new services and technologies, and build capacity through training and collaboration. Find out more about our research impact

The opinions reflected in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Canadian Blood Services nor do they reflect the views of Health Canada or any other funding agency.

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Research supports equipment change and process improvements


Thursday, August 22, 2019

Two pieces of equipment at the core of our component manufacturing process were recently replaced: the centrifuge, used to spin blood into layers of components; and the blood extractor, used to separate these layers. This was a necessary change as the old equipment was nearing end-of-life. In late Spring 2019, the process of rolling out this new equipment at sites across the country was completed, representing the culmination of several years of work by many groups at Canadian Blood Services.

Back in 2016, a Request for Proposals led to the selection of potential new equipment. Supply chain and the Centre for Innovation’s product and process development group then collaborated to test the equipment at the Centre for Innovation’s Blood4Research facility in Vancouver.

The group initially assessed how useful and effective the potential equipment would be, including its suitability to fit Canadian Blood Services’ component manufacturing processes. They then determined the best centrifuge and extractor settings to balance product quality with process efficiency. To do this, the product and process development group worked closely with supply chain to design and conduct a series of studies that tested various settings and their impact on product quality. This was a complex undertaking. Canadian Blood Services uses two different component manufacturing processes which produce several component types (including red blood cells, plasma, platelets, and cryoprecipitate plasma), and all processes and products needed to be assessed to be confident that product quality could be maintained or improved with the change in equipment.

Learn more about Canadian Blood Services component manufacturing processes here.

The equipment change was leveraged as an opportunity to improve component manufacturing processes, including efficiency and staff ergonomics. Two front-line production staff were brought to Vancouver to assess the usability and ergonomics of the equipment, and to determine the value of the equipment’s new features (e.g. automatic canula breakers). Their feedback was essential in helping choose the equipment that is now being used across the country.

Other opportunities for process improvement were also sought. For example, centrifuge inserts safeguard the whole blood collection bags while they are being centrifuged. Working with an industry partner, the product and process development group developed a more durable and easy-to-wash centrifuge insert made of silicone to replace the older inserts which were foam-based and less durable.

As part of the equipment change, the way Canadian Blood Services produce platelets from whole blood was also streamlined. Several tedious rinsing and mixing steps were eliminated. This new “One Rinse No Mix” pooling method had originally been tested by the product and process development group a few years earlier and was further assessed and adopted for implementation along with the new equipment. This improved method saves staff time and ergonomic strain.

Once the new equipment was chosen, settings and procedures were further fine-tuned to maximize the equipment’s capabilities. Confirmation studies compared the quality of products manufactured using the new equipment to historical quality control data to ensure products continued to be of the highest quality. This work drew on expertise from across the Centre for Innovation and the organization, with products tested at the Blood4Research facility in Vancouver, Centre for Innovation laboratories in Vancouver and Hamilton, and the Canadian Blood Services’ national testing laboratories in Ottawa and Brampton.

The findings from the product and process development group’s assessments provided the evidence needed to choose new equipment while maintaining confidence in the quality of the products provided to hospitals for patients. Supply chain then worked to validate the equipment, processes, and procedures in a real-world production environment, including revising or creating standard operating procedures for component processing. The evidence gathered through these efforts supported a submission to Health Canada to make a change to Canadian Blood Services’ component production procedures and processes. Health Canada approved this submission in April 2018, and the long road towards organization-wide implementation by supply chain began.

Old foam-based centrifuge inserts (left) and longer-lasting silicon inserts (right).
Old foam-based centrifuge inserts (left) and longer-lasting silicon inserts (right).
Whole blood unit separated into plasma, platelets, and red blood cells
A whole blood unit following centrifugation on the new equipment during equipment testing at the Vancouver Blood4Research facility.
three units shown on left of photo) and centrifuge (on the right) in the Canadian Blood Services manufacturing site in Brampton, ON
The new blood extractors (three units shown on left of photo) and centrifuge (on the right) in the Canadian Blood Services manufacturing site in Brampton, ON. (Photo credit: Susan White)

Canadian Blood Services – Driving world-class innovation

Through discovery, development and applied research, Canadian Blood Services drives world-class innovation in blood transfusion, cellular therapy and transplantation—bringing clarity and insight to an increasingly complex healthcare future. Our dedicated research team and extended network of partners engage in exploratory and applied research to create new knowledge, inform and enhance best practices, contribute to the development of new services and technologies, and build capacity through training and collaboration. Find out more about our research impact

The opinions reflected in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Canadian Blood Services nor do they reflect the views of Health Canada or any other funding agency.

 

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2018-2019 Centre for Innovation annual progress report now available


Thursday, August 15, 2019

Housed within Canadian Blood Services’ Medical Affairs and Innovation division, the Centre for Innovation conducts and supports research, development, and knowledge mobilization to ensure a safe, effective, and responsive blood system. This last year was another outstanding one for the Centre for Innovation – the heart of Canadian Blood Services’ research and development activities – as highlighted in the 2018-2019 annual progress report, which was recently published. 

2018-2019 highlights include: 
  • The Centre for innovation supported 124 investigators across Canada through funding and products for research programs. 
  • The Centre for Innovation’s research and innovation network published 163 peer-reviewed publications, delivered over 300 presentations at local, national, and international conferences, and wrote 26 technical reports to share with Canadian Blood Services and partners to support decision-making. 
  • Research from the Centre for Innovation informed improvements to the monocyte monolayer assay, a test that can help choose the safest blood for hard-to-match patients. These improvements helped develop the assay for use in the clinical laboratory, and it will soon “go live” in the Edmonton diagnostics laboratory.  
  • The Centre for Innovation’s product and process development group supported the introduction of a new platelet pooling set, which received Health Canada approval in 2018-2019. The new platelet pooling set is used during production of platelet components from whole blood donations and results in more consistent platelet yields. 
  • The Centre for Innovation published discovery research linking a plasma protein with platelet clotting and suggesting a new link between diet and heart health. Lead scientist, Dr. Heyu Ni, received a prestigious Canadian Institutes of Health Research Foundation Grant. 

The Centre for Innovation is proud to support Canadian Blood Services’ efforts to continuously improve products and processes and to help every patient, match every need, and serve every Canadian and is honoured to be part of “the connection between the profound discoveries of science and the joyful restoration of health.”  

Learn more about Canadian Blood Services’ mission.  

Read the 2018-2019 Centre for Innovation annual progress report in English or French.

1.	Members of the Canadian Blood Services research network at the 2018 ISBT Congress in Toronto
Members of the Canadian Blood Services research network at the 2018 ISBT Congress in Toronto.
2.	Training international students to perform the monocyte monolayer assay. Charlotte Paquet (France), Mairead Holton (Ireland), and Elodie Dupeuble (France) watch Selena Cen (Branch laboratory, Canadian Blood Services) perform the monocyte monolayer assay.
Training international students to perform the monocyte monolayer assay. Charlotte Paquet (France), Mairead Holton (Ireland), and Elodie Dupeuble (France) watch Selena Cen (Branch laboratory, Canadian Blood Services) perform the monocyte monolayer assay.

Canadian Blood Services – Driving world-class innovation

Through discovery, development and applied research, Canadian Blood Services drives world-class innovation in blood transfusion, cellular therapy and transplantation—bringing clarity and insight to an increasingly complex healthcare future. Our dedicated research team and extended network of partners engage in exploratory and applied research to create new knowledge, inform and enhance best practices, contribute to the development of new services and technologies, and build capacity through training and collaboration. Find out more about our research impact

The opinions reflected in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Canadian Blood Services nor do they reflect the views of Health Canada or any other funding agency.

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