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Grad student wins Killam Doctoral Scholarship

Congratulations to PhD student Chad Atkins who has been awarded a Killam Doctoral Scholarship for the upcoming academic year. Chad has been working with Michael Blades and Robin Turner on a project that involves the study of storage lesions in red blood cells using Raman spectroscopy.

Killam Doctoral Scholarships are provided annually from the Izaak Walton Killam Memorial Fund for Advanced Studies. These are the most prestigious graduate awards available at UBC, and are awarded to the top doctoral candidates.

Chad Atkins on his research: When blood is donated, it is separated into its specific components (red blood cells, platelets, white blood cells, and plasma) and stored according to defined regulations. Red blood cells (RBCs) comprise the largest volume of product transfused to patients, so determining the quality of these cells as they’re stored is of utmost importance. Currently, stored RBCs are considered to be viable for 42 days after donation. However, this timeframe is based on averages from conventional assays that are costly and time-consuming; in reality, blood from different donors will degrade at significantly different rates. This degradation is called ‘storage lesion’ and refers to a multitude of chemical, physiological, and morphological changes that occur in the stored units over time. My research involves the utilization of Raman spectroscopy to provide a non-invasive way to assess the quality of stored blood rapidly and accurately without needing to destructively sample the contents of the bag. Using Raman spectroscopy, many of the age-related compositional changes associated with RBC storage are expected to be reflected in their Raman signatures (e.g., denatured hemoglobin, cell membrane changes, loss of metabolic regulators, etc.). My objective has been the identification of specific spectral features that can be designated as indicators of the lesion progression.