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.

Lab News

As true today as it was in in 1908

Elie had it right!


Elie Metchnikoff discovered phagocytosis in 1883, a discovery for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1908. Today, 108 years later, we continue his work.

Positions now open.

The Heit lab is currently looking to fill three positions, suitable for graduate students or post-doctoral fellows. Trainees in these positions will develop an in-depth knowledge of immunology, cell biology and inflammation, and will gain technical expertise in molecular and cellular biology, immune assays and advanced microscopy.

Available Positions/Projects:

The available projects cover a broad range of immunological topics, including:

  1. Biophysics of phagocyte receptor diffusion and phagocyte force generation. Students with strength in immunology, cell biology and mathematics would be best suited for this position.
  2. Efferocytic receptor biology. This project involves characterizing the gene regulation and signalling pathway responsible for efferocytosis through a key efferocytic receptor, with the aim of understanding how this receptor works under homeostasis and during chronic inflammatory disease.
  3. Characterization of a new phagocytic receptor. We believe that we have identified a new phagocytic receptor; this project seeks to further characterize this receptor and understand its role under homeostatic and chronic inflammatory conditions.


How to Apply for a Position:

Applications should be made directly to Dr. Heit. Please note that I will not reply to applicants who have not met the following requirements:

  1. All prospective graduate students must meet departmental entrance requirements. PDFs do not have to fulfil this requirement.
  2. E-mail Dr. Heit with a CV, grades, and contact information for 2 references.
  3. Hold a degree in a relevant area of biology

Students/PDFs holding independent funding are preferred, but not required.


New Paper Published!

The Heit lab, as part of a study led by Dr. Jane Rylett, has just published a paper on the cellular signalling involved in the cellular processes involved in Alzhimers disease.  This study utilized a novel method of measuring protein distributions in super-resolution images developed in our lab.

Winick-Ng W, Caetano FA, Winick-Ng J, Morey TM, Heit B, Rylett RJ. 82-kDa choline acetyltransferase and SATB1 localize to β-amyloid induced matrix attachment regions. Scientific Reports. 2016 Apr 7;6:23914. PubMed PMID: 27052102.

The Heit Lab at CSI 2016

Several members of the Heit lab represented the Western University at the 2016 annual meeting of the Canadian Society for Immunology. This was an exciting opportunity to see several world-leaders in the immunology field and to present our research to the Canadian immunology community. Our work was well received, with Jack Blackburn receiving the BioLegend Poster Award for his work on CD93.


Jack and his award-winning poster


Jack receiving his poster award


The Heit lab at the award banquet. l-R: Jack, Bryan and Amanda


The 2016 contingent of Western University researchers at CSI


















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Upcoming Events

June 2 2016
Research Symposium & Celebratory Dinner – Dr. Bhagirath SinghA celebration of Dr. Sing's illustrious career.

June 12-17 2016
Gordon Research Conference on Lysosomes & EndocytosisAndover, NH

June 16 2016
2016 RGE Murray Lectureship - Dr. Olaf Scheewind from the University of Chicago

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