McArdle Assistant Professor Huy Dinh Receives NIH MIRA Award

McArdle Assistant Professor Huy Dinh recently received a $1.8 million 5-year NIH R35 Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award (MIRA) that will propel his laboratory’s work aiming to understand the role of immune cells known as neutrophils in wound healing and cancers.

Neutrophils are the most abundant cell type in the blood and are the first to migrate to sites of wounding. Neutrophils are also frequently elevated in cancer patients and associated with poor prognoses. However, recent findings in the Dinh lab have revealed that there are actually multiple distinct neutrophil subtypes capable of driving both pro- and anti-tumoral phenotypes. Devising creative ways to switch neutrophils from protumor to antitumor behaviors is now a major focus of the Dinh lab’s research. To this end, Dr. Dinh will perform genomics-based studies of neutrophils in the context of complex tissue heterogeneity, and test the hypothesis that blood neutrophils can be used as biomarkers to predict disease severity, such as complications associated with severe burn injuries in this R35 project and chronic inflammation diseases like cancers.

Dr. Dinh says, “Neutrophils are part of the first defense line of our immune system (“first responders”) that fight infections and heal injuries. I have been puzzled and motivated to answer the question of whether we can also harness the power of neutrophils to fight cancers. They are abundant in vivo, and easy to generate for cell-based therapies compared to other immune cells. This could be a great advantage for a game-changing therapy.”

Dr. Dinh joined the McArdle faculty in 2020 after completing postdoctoral training in cancer epigenomics at the University of Southern California and Cedars Sinai Medical Center and serving as an instructor at the La Jolla Institute for Immunology, also in California. Dr. Dinh is a leading expert in developing and applying cutting-edge single-cell transcriptomics and novel bioinformatics methods to understand disease states.