A researcher in Carleton University’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Andrew Harris, has recently received the Banting Research Foundation’s Discovery Award for his research on cell and tissue mechanical properties.

With the aim of understanding the origins of disease and developing new therapeutic approaches, Harris’s work lies at the interface between mechanical engineering, materials science and molecular biology where he develops new tools to measure the mechanical properties of human cells and tissues.

As Principal Investigator of the Cell and Tissue Engineering Laboratory (CTELab), established in 2021, Harris works to engineer biology and design cells and tissues for a variety of systems including the kidney, gut, skin and blood. He will use the support from this award to investigate the role of mechanical forces in the generation of platelets.

Andrew Harris portrait
Andrew Harris, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Platelets are important in preventing bleeding whenever a blood vessel is damaged. If a patient’s platelet count is low, platelets must be transfused to increase the number to a safe level. But this method demands a high number of uncontaminated platelets, which can be difficult to attain as doctors currently depend on donor platelets.

To offer a more reliable source of platelets for transfusion, Harris is investigating how to engineer platelets synthetically. Current approaches to making platelets fall short due to an incomplete understanding of the mechanisms of platelet production. By researching these mechanisms, Harris will be investigating a largely unexplored area of cell and tissue mechanics.

“This research program will use engineering and cell biology methods to measure the mechanical forces generated during platelet production,” said Harris. “This novel perspective has the potential to develop new strategies for generating platelets outside the body, and for understanding platelet disorders.”

Harris’s work at the CTELab also continues to be supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and the Canada Foundation for Innovation to enhance his work on the mechanical properties of cells and tissues and new super-resolution imaging techniques, respectively.

Learn more about Harris’s work and the CTELab.

About the Banting Research Foundation’s Discovery Award

The Banting Research Foundation’s Discovery Award is a one-year grant of up to $30,000 for innovative health and biomedical research projects by outstanding new investigators at universities and research institutes in Canada who are within the first three years of their first academic appointment. The intent is to provide seed funding so that applicants are able to gather pilot data to enhance their competitiveness for other sources of funding. They fund at least six awards per year.

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