Issa, Maria

Portrait photo of Maria  Issa

Issa, Maria

BSc (hons) UBC, PhD (Univ of London)

Academic Rank(s): Clinical Associate Professor, Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, UBC | Director, Pathology Education Centre

Affiliation(s): Vancouver General Hospital

Research and Scholarly Interests: Blood research, Scholarship of Teaching of Education Research, Professional Contributions

Clinical Interests:

Short Bio

Maria Gyongyossy-Issa is a “seasoned” member of Pathology who has long enjoyed teaching anyone from kindergarten kids to PhD students and Residents and all comers in between. Though she started in Microbiology at UBC, she went on to her PhD in immunology with Ivan Roitt (London UK) and was the first to describe antigen receptors on T cells. She skied in Switzerland and France while doing biochemistry (complement) and blood (apoptosis), then moved to Saskatchewan to work on the biological warfare agent, T2 toxin. Finally, in Vancouver, she raised a family while working on platelets with CBS, then UBC’s Centre for Blood Research. In between, she taught biochemistry for CIDA in Indonesia, mounted courses for Douglas College, created Science World’s “Opening the Doors” science networking program, taught Summer Science to Northern kids, fell in love with med students and PBL. As a Black Belt instructor, she also teaches TaeKwonDo for UBC Rec. Her motto is Emmanuel Kant’s dictum “Dare to find out!”



Academic Background

  • PhD, University of London, U.K., Middlesex Hospital Medical School, Immunology. 1974
  • BSc (Hons), University of BC, Microbiology. 1971

Awards and Recognition


Selected Publications

  • Weiss S, Scammell K, Levin E, Culibrk B, Zolfaghari S, Gyöngyössy-Issa MI, Acker JP (2012). In vitro platelet quality in storage containers used for pediatric transfusions. Transfusion 52; 1703-1714 doi: 10.1111/j.1537-2995.2011.03516.x. Epub 2012 Jan 18.
  • Schubert P, Culibrk B, Coupland D, Scammell K, Gyongyossy-Issa M, Devine DV (2012) Riboflavin and ultraviolet light treatment potentiates vasodilator-stimulated phosphoprotein Ser-239 phosphorylation in platelet concentrates during storage. Transfusion 52;397-408. doi: 10.1111/j.1537-2995.2011.03287.x. Epub 2011 Aug 9. PMID: 21827504.
  • Gyongyossy-Issa MIC (2011) Glucose in platelet additive solutions: to add or not to add? Transfusion and Apheresis Science 44;283-295. doi: 10.1016/j.transci.2011.03.003. Epub 2011 Apr 14. Review.
  • Levin E, Jenkins C, Culibrk B, Gyöngyössy-Issa MI, Serrano K, Devine DV (2012) Development of a quality monitoring program for platelet components: a report of the first four years’ experience at Canadian Blood Services. Transfusion 52;810-818. doi: 10.1111/j.1537-2995.2011.03402.x. Epub 2011 Nov 7. PMID: 22060700.
  • Greco CA, Zhang JG, Kalab M, Yi Q, Ramirez-Arcos SM, Gyongyossy-Issa MIC, (2010) Effect of platelet additive solution on bacterial dynamics and their influence on platelet quality in stored platelet concentrates. Transfusion 50;2344-2352.
  • Serrano K, Scammell K, Weiss S, Culibrk B, Levin E, Gyöngyössy-Issa M, Devine DV (2010) Plasma and cryoprecipitate manufactured from whole blood held overnight at room temperature meet quality standards.
    Transfusion 50;344-353. doi: 10.1111/j.1537-2995.2009.02441.x. Epub 2009 Oct 15. PMID: 19843287.
  • Holovati JL, Gyongyossy-Issa MIC, Acker JP. (2009) Effects of trehalose-loaded liposomes on red blood cell response to freezing and post-thaw membrane quality. Cryobiology 58, 75-83.
  • Gyongyossy-Issa MIC, Zhang JG, Culibrk B, Hunter F, Levin E, Scammell K, Weiss S, Holmes DL, Holme S. (2009) Novel system for storage of buffy-coat derived platelet concentrates in a glucose-based platelet additive solution: parameters and metabolism during storage and comparison to plasma. Vox Sanguinis 97, 102-109.
  • Holovati JL, Hannon J, Gyongyossy-Issa MIC, Acker JP. (2009) Blood preservation workshop: new and emerging trends in research and clinical practice. Transfusion Medicine Reviews 23:25-41.
  • del Carpio Munoz C, Campbell W, Constantinescu I, Gyongyossy-Issa MIC. (2008) Rational design of short inhibitor peptides to target the von Willebrand factor (vWf) – GPIb integrin interaction. Journal of Molecular Modeling 14, 1191-1202.

Research Interest

Platelet storage involves complex interactions with plasma proteins from the complement and coagulation enzyme cascades. The extent to which these enzymes are responsible for loss of platelet function, known as platelet storage lesions, is of particular interest. Not only do the platelets interact with these proteins, but they also modulate the degree of activation of the cascades.

The cascades are likely initiated by the chemical nature of the bag surface causing a chain reaction to propagate and cross-activate further enzymes. The platelets may down-regulate the activity until they are overwhelmed. As platelets fall victim to the complement effects of C1INH depletion, lysis, and/or metabolic losses, the cascade accelerates. This could give rise to the storage lesion as manifest by activated, exhausted platelets. If complement activation during storage can be reduced or totally inhibited, platelets may be able to exhibit prolonged function. The effect of complement inhibitors sCR1 (soluble complement receptor 1) and NAAGA (a peptide C3 convertase inhibitor) included in the storage container should produce an improvement of stored platelet function. There was some indication that leukocyte enzymes may also contribute to platelet storage lesions; however, with the advent of leukoreduction the contribution of leukocytes to the problem has been reduced.

Ultimately, it would be ideal to be able to provide an ‘add water and stir’ platelet substitute – one that can be dried and does not involve a human donor, but functions as an adjunct or filler to the body’s own platelets when activated. To this end, this laboratory is developing a liposome-based platelet substitute. Canadian Centre for Blood Research

Clinical Service

Current Projects In My Lab Include


Teaching Interest

My special interests and accomplishments have to do with ‘one-on-one’ teaching in a laboratory or a small group setting that aims to promote science as a life-skill.
With the advent of the Career and Personal Planning (CAPP) credits for the highschools, as well as the Shad Valley programs, Science Fairs and the scholarship students supported by organisations such as the Heart & Stroke Foundation of BC, there has been a steady stream of highschool students that have poured through the lab for anywhere between 3 days to 3 months. Since 1995, about 20 of them have passed under my hands wishing to do great experiments to swiftly save the world. I give them time, mentorship and many heart-to-heart talks to learn about how science is done and the responsibilities of a scientist, how to use universal precautions against biohazards, the absolute need for controlled experiments and the fact that not everything works the first time. In exchange, they provide interest, enthusiasm, a fresh perspective and occasionally even useful data.