Keenan Research Centre

Scientist Profiles

Image of Heyu Ni

Heyu Ni

MD, Anhui Medical University in China; M.Sc., Anhui Medical University in China; PhD, University of Manitoba; Postdoctoral Fellow, Harvard Medical School


Scientist in the Keenan Research Centre of the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute of St. Michael's Hospital

Associate Professor, Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology, University of Toronto

Associate Professor, Medicine, University of Toronto

Associate Professor, Physiology, University of Toronto

Scientist, Research and Development, Canadian Blood Services

Research Interests

Thrombosis and hemostasis, platelet physiology and vascular biology, immune response to allo- and autoantigens, adhesion molecules, intravital microscopy

Research Activities

My laboratory currently investigates the role(s) of adhesion molecules (in particular the beta3 integrin and GPIb alpha complexes) involved in clot formation as well as their implications for hemostasis (including bleeding disorders) and thrombotic diseases (ie. heart attack and stroke). The laboratory also studies allo- and autoimmune diseases related to bleeding disorders such as immune thrombocytopenia (ITP) and fetal and neonatal alloimmune thrombocytopenic purpura (FNAIT). These studies have been well funded by both internal and external granting agencies including Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada (HSFC), Canadian Blood Services (CBS), Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), and National Institutes of Health (NIH, USA), etc. We are currently funded by 3 CIHR grants and several other grants from HSFC and NIH etc.

Platelet physiology and thrombosis: thrombotic diseases such as heart attack and stroke are the leading causes of mortality and mobility worldwide. We established an intravital microscopy thrombosis model at Harvard to study thrombus formation in real time in live mice. Through direct monitoring of platelet adhesion and aggregation in vivo, we were the first to observe that platelet aggregation and thrombus formation still occur in mice lacking both von Willebrand factor (VWF) and fibrinogen (Fg). This surprising discovery challenged the established theory of thrombosis that required VWF and Fg for thrombus formation and suggested that other unidentified molecule(s) may also be involved in thrombosis and hemostasis and may provide novel targets for anti-thrombotic therapies. My team is in the process of identifying these mystery molecules at St. Michael's Hospital using several state-of-the-art techniques such as proteomics and confocal intravital microscopy.

Platelet immunology and maternal immune response to fetal antigens: my laboratory recently published several important papers in investigation: 1) How ITP mediated by anti-beta3 integrin and anti-GPIb antibodies differ, finding that these two antibody specificities may respond to therapy differently. This has important implications for human ITP and potential screening of patients in order to successfully treat this disease. 2) The first animal model of FNAIT, characterizing the disease and its response to intravenous immunoglobulin G (IVIG) therapy. Currently, the laboratory is studying the molecular and cellular basis for ITP, the maternal immune responses to fetal platelet antigens and the roles of anti-angiogenesis and apoptosis in the patho-progression of FNAIT.

Selected Research

Link to Pub Med

Other Activities

Scientific memberships:

  1. International Society of Thrombosis and Hemostasis
  2. American Society of Hematology
  3. American Association of Blood Banks
  4. Canadian Society of Atherosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology
  5. Canadian Society of Transfusion Medicine

Committee membership:

Grant Reviewer:

  1. Canadian Institutes of Health Research
  2. Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada
  3. Canada Foundation for Innovation
  4. Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada
  5. The Kidney Foundation of Canada
  6. China (NSFC)-Canada (CIHR) Joint Health Research Initiative – Grants Program
  7. Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research
  8. Landsteiner Foundation for Blood Transfusion Research
  9. National Institutes of Health

Award reviewer:

  1. Canadian Institutes of Health Research Travel Award
  2. Canadian Blood Services Graduate Fellowship
  3. Ontario Graduate Scholarships in Science and Technology
  4. Heart and Stroke/ Richard Lewar Centre of Excellence Fellowship, University of Toronto
  5. Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology Graduate Award, University of Toronto
  6. St. Michael’s Hosptial graduate scholarship

Journal Reviewer:

  1. Blood
  2. Journal of Clinical Investigation
  3. Journal of Biological Chemistry
  4. Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology
  5. Journal of Thrombosis and Hemostasis
  6. Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences
  7. Journal of Leukocyte Biology
  8. Thrombosis and Hemostasis
  9. Haematologica
  10. Transfusion
  11. Clinical Immunology
  12. Experimental Hematology
  13. European Journal of Hematology
  14. Journal of Natural Products
  15. British Journal of Haematology
  16. Current Medicinal Chemistry
  17. Apoptosis
  18. Cardiovascular Pathology
  19. Platelets

Educational Activities

I have appointments in the departments of Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology, Medicine, and Physiology. I have a relatively big research team and currently supervise several undergraduate students, graduate students, and postdoctoral fellows and am interested in recruiting new students (graduate, undergraduate, summer, etc.) and postdoctoral fellows.


Phone: 416-847-1738
Fax: 416-864-5826