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Bloody good award goes to UH Biomedical Engineering Ph.D. student

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By: 

Laurie Fickman
Cullen College doctoral student Nathaniel Piety with award given by Donna M. Regan, president of AABB
Cullen College doctoral student Nathaniel Piety with award given by Donna M. Regan, president of AABB
Biomedical Engineering Associate Professor Sergey Shevkoplyas with Nathaniel Piety at AABB annual meeting in Orlando
Biomedical Engineering Associate Professor Sergey Shevkoplyas with Nathaniel Piety at AABB annual meeting in Orlando

UH biomedical engineering doctoral student Nathaniel Piety, who studies under Associate Professor Sergey Shevkoplyas, has been awarded for his work by the AABB (formerly known as the American Association of Blood Banks) at the AABB Annual Meeting in Orlando, Florida in October. The AABB cited Piety’s abstract titled “Anaerobic Conditions Reduce Deterioration of Rheological Properties of Stored Red Blood Cells” as winner of the Outstanding Abstract Award for trainees in the medical or graduate student category.

For an abstract, Piety’s work is pretty concrete. It examines how donated red blood cells (RBCs) deteriorate over time during storage, similar to food that stays too long in a refrigerator. One of the main causes of this gradual deterioration of RBCs is oxidative damage, which is damage resulting from the interaction of oxygen with components of the RBCs.

The answer, according to Piety, is to store the RBCs in oxygen-free (anaerobic) conditions.

“I found that anaerobic storage conditions resulted in statistically significant improvements in the flow properties, deformability and shape of stored RBCs compared to conventionally stored RBCs,” said Piety. “Additionally, I found that the microfluidic devices developed in our lab were actually more sensitive to changes in RBC properties than the existing commercial machines,” he said.

Piety says he was grateful to win the award and to represent the University of Houston.

“Just being selected to give an oral presentation at the AABB Annual Meeting is an achievement in itself, but being selected for this award was a rare honor,” he said.

“I am very proud of Nate for winning this highly prestigious award,” said Shevkoplyas. “He is an outstanding student and deserves the recognition.”

Along with the honor, Piety received a $500 honorarium.

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