Felix Ellett, Ph.D.

Instructor in Investigation
Shriners Hospitals for Children - Boston, Mass General Research Institute
Instructor in Surgery
Harvard Medical School
chemotaxis; infection; innate immunity; microfluidics; neutrophils; sepsis

The central theme of Dr. Ellett’s research is the study of host immune cell behavior in response to infection.

The innate immune system plays a key role in protection against infection once physical barriers are breached. The cellular “first responders” of this system, neutrophils, are capable of deploying an arsenal of antimicrobial weapons to sterilize the tissue so that wound healing can proceed. While neutrophil responses are incredibly important to avoiding infection, under some conditions they may become dysregulated and contribute directly to the pathology of the disease.

Current projects include designing new microfluidic assays to measure the influence of external microenvironments and activation status on neutrophil decision-making during chemotaxis and adapting zebrafish infection models to measure neutrophil-mediated dissemination of infection following phagocytosis. These approaches are being applied to dissection of molecular pathways driving neutrophil behavior during infection and will inform and facilitate measure dysregulation of neutrophil function in relevant patient cohorts.

 Key patient populations of interest include: those at increased risk of opportunistic infection, such as burn patients and those on immunosuppressants; patients with infections, such as those suffering from sepsis, Lyme Disease, periodontal disease, and candidemia; and patients suspected of exhibiting altered innate immune function, including those with COVID-19-related sequela such as PASC and MIS-C in children, or individuals suffering from ME/CFS.

The central goal of Dr. Ellett’s research program is to better understand the contribution of innate immune cell dysregulation to disease pathology, and to identify key pathways that could be targeted to improve patient outcomes.