Phagocyte Biology Laboratory

Dr. Bryan Heit, Western University

About Us

Welcome! You have reached the homepage for the laboratory of Dr. Bryan Heit. Our lab is part of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at Western University, and we are members of the Center for Human Immunology, the lead centre for the CIHR Human Immunology Network.

Our interests surround the function of phagocytes – white blood cells which ingest (phagocytose) pathogens, particles, and dead cells. We focus on the cellular and molecular processes which control the function of these cells during the maintenance of homeostasis, infection and chronic inflammatory disease. Central to most of our studies is the study of efferoctyosis – the phagocytic removal of apoptotic (dying) cells, and how failures in this process lead to inflammation, autoimmunity and infection.

What is a Phagocyte?

Phagocytes are a class of white blood cells which have the capacity to engulf large particles such as bacterial and fungal pathogens, and subsequently destroy the engulfed material. The term phagocyte literally translates to “cell that eats”, which is an apt description of the primary function of these cells in our bodies. While there are many types of phagocytes, the Heit lab focuses primarily on macrophages, which play key roles in both maintaining our bodies and in fighting infections.

Our Methods

We use a combination of advanced microscopy techniques, gene expression analysis and functional assays to investigate the activity of macrophages. Some examples of the methods we employ can be found on our YouTube channel.

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Lab News

Spaceships: Homemade (left) versus commercial (right)

The Heit lab is excited to share our 3D printed “spaceships” with the microscopy community. These are live cell imaging chambers (Leiden chambers) which hold an 18 mm circular coverslip plus enough media to keep cells alive over 24 hours of imaging. These can be easily modified with free CAD software to add features such as profusion ports and electrodes. But importantly, they are very cheap – a few dollars (that is the total cost – including magnets, o-rings and 3D printer filament) versus several hundred dollars for their commercial equivalents.

The enclosed .ZIP file contains a readme file with all of the information required to print these chambers (including a complete list of non-3D printed parts), .STL files for two different size chambers (35 mm and 42 mm) and a .STL file for tools to aid in the assembly of the chambers. The only other item you will need is access to a 3D printer (we use the Prusa MK3S).

We Are Looking for New Students and Post-Doctoral Fellows

The Heit lab is looking for two individuals to pursue our recently funded CIHR project. Positions are available for both graduate students (MSc or PhD students) and for post-doctoral fellows. Additional details can be found in the attached ad.

CIHR Grant Awarded

The Heit lab is excited to announce that we are the recipients of a CIHR Project Grant. This grant will ensure that our lab will continue to make important scientific contributions over the next 5 years.

This grant funds our ongoing work into the biology of Rab17 and other vesicular trafficking regulators, specifically into their role in determining immunological outcomes following efferocytosis and phagocytosis. This study will provide important information on how our immune systems regulates its responses towards innocuous versus potentially dangerous targets. Moreover, this study will provide insights into how disruption of this immunological system may aid the growth of pathogens and induce autoimmune diseases.

Thank you NVIDIA

We would like to thank NVIDIA and their GPU Grant Program for awarding the Heit lab a free GPU for our computational work. This program furnishes academic labs with free GPU’s, for use in developing new analytical frameworks and to enable data analysis. This NVIDIA GPU will allow the Heit lab to continue our development of the next generation of image analysis routines, building upon or MIiSR and SPT frameworks. In addition, this GPU will increase our capacity to engage in SRRF super-resolution imaging.

Programs such as these are critical for the on-going development of new image analysis methods, and to ensure that all labs can utilise leading-edge computational technologies. We at the Heit lab are looking forward to receiving this GPU and for the work it will enable in our lab.

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