Daniel IrimiaAssociate Professor | Charlestown, Massachusetts
Dr. Daniel Irimia is a bioengineer trained as a physician and I am passionate about understanding the clinical consequences of neutrophil activities during disease. My research is focused on designing sophisticated tools to measure relevant neutrophil behaviors, with the highest precision, directly from patients’ blood.
Today, the absolute neutrophil count (ANC) is the most common blood tests ordered by physicians to evaluate patients resources against infections. This test is based on the implicit assumption that the counted neutrophils are all fully effective against the microbes, and supported by the fact that genetic diseases affecting neutrophils are extremely rare (less than 20 cases/year in the US). However, new evidence is emerging that suggests that neutrophil behavior changes and could become detrimental during diseases. To measure these changes and study their implications, new tools are required.
Most recent, by employing new microfluidic devices to fingerprint the characteristics of neutrophil motility across 18 independent parameters, we uncovered specific motility patterns for sepsis. We found that neutrophils can move spontaneously though micron-sized channels, in the absence of directional signals. This neutrophil behavior not yet observed in blood samples for healthy individuals, can predict, up to two days in advance, the occurrence of sepsis in patients with major burns. Together with our earlier observations that correcting neutrophil motility in an animal model of burn injury, can protect from complications, our findings underline the potentially critical role that neutrophils could have in monitoring and preventing sepsis. New tools and better understanding of neutrophil biology will be required to change the current status quo, where neutrophils are counted but not measured.