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

Vesicular Trafficking Shapes Membrane Diffusion

We are excited to announce the publication of our newest paper Membrane Diffusion Occurs by Continuous-Time Random Walk Sustained by Vesicular Trafficking, published in Biophysical Journal. In this paper we investigate the diffusive process that mediates the movement of proteins on the cell surface, and demonstrate a key role of endocytosis and exocytosis in maintaining diffusion within the cell membrane.

Goiko M, de Bruyn JR, Heit B. Membrane Diffusion Occurs by Continuous-Time Random Walk Sustained by Vesicular TraffickingBiophysical Journal. Volume 114, Issue 12, 19 June 2018, Pages 2887–2899.

If you do not have access to the paper, the final author version is available for free as a preprint at Biorxiv.


The Heit lab is having a fantastic time at the Canadian Society for Immunology 2018 Annual Meeting. Great science, great interactions, and more than a bit of fun!

2018 RGE Murray Lecturer Announced

We are excited to announce that the 2018 RGE Murray Lecturship will be given by Dr. Joanna Goldberg from Emory University. Dr. Goldberg is a leading expert in the pathobiology of Pseudomonas and Burkholderia infections during cystic fibrosis. Save the date and attend if you can!










Congratulations Adam & Elaine

On Friday our honours students Adam and Elaine both gave excellent presentations of the work they conducted over the past 8 months. Great work, great presentations, and excellent science!

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