The Deng lab's research aims to deepen our understanding of neutrophil biology and offer targeted therapies that could change the lives of countless individuals suffering from devastating diseases. 

Project 1: Our lab discovers microRNAs and their targets that regulate the intricate mechanisms governing neutrophil migration. Our lab successfully identified specific microRNAs capable of suppressing neutrophil migration through a meticulous microRNA overexpression screen. By characterizing their targets, we uncovered new protein-coding genes directly relevant to this essential cellular process. We demonstrated that altering either microRNAs or their protein-coding gene targets profoundly affects the antibacterial response in fish. The conserved signaling network is validated in human neutrophil cell models and primary human cells. Overall, our findings challenge established notions and pave the way for developing targeted therapies that could revolutionize the treatment of immune-related disorders.

Image from Cell Reports 2018

Project 2: Our lab has observed that mitochondria may primarily regulate signaling pathways rather than solely providing ATP for neutrophil migration. This challenges the conventional view of mitochondria as primarily energy generators and emphasizes their role in orchestrating cellular processes beyond bioenergetics. Our lab has made a remarkable discovery of the critical role of Mfn2, a protein found in the outer membrane of mitochondria, in neutrophil adhesion and migration. Mechanistically, Mfn2 regulates integrin activation, Rac and Rho pathway, and cell mechanics. The findings from Deng's lab regarding mitochondria and Mfn2 are groundbreaking and carry significant implications for our understanding and treatment of various human diseases.

Image from eLife 2023 

Project 3: The remarkable potential of neutrophil engineering for targeted therapies is exemplified by the collaborative efforts of Deng's lab and the Bao lab. Overall, the engineering of neutrophils to express CARs and their demonstrated efficacy in combating tumors represents an exciting breakthrough in immunotherapy. This research paves the way for developing innovative strategies that leverage the unique properties of neutrophils to revolutionize cancer treatment and other inflammatory diseases.

Image from Cell Reports 2022

Project 4: Deng lab is an integral part of the Emergent Mechanisms in Biology of Robustness, Integration & Organization (EMBRIO), a multidisciplinary institute that aims to understand how living systems integrate diverse signals, including chemical and mechanical stimuli, to develop responsive phenotypes that coordinate the structures and functions of cells and tissues for survival and proper function. Deng leads Project 3B: Determine how tissue-wide organization of connected epithelial sheets emerges from large-scale multicellular coordination through the study of wound sealing in zebrafish. Their research has the potential to uncover fundamental principles applicable to a wide range of biological systems and advance our knowledge of wound healing mechanisms, ultimately paving the way for improved therapeutic strategies and interventions.

Image generated by Shelly Tan.