School of Medicine
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Huanhuan (Mahsa) He
Postdoctoral Research fellow, Gynecologic Oncology
Bio What is the role of macrophages in human body? What do they do under different physiological and pathological settings? During my Ph.D. training with Dr. Luisa Iruela-Arispe, my research was focusing on the biological consequences of the interactions between macrophages and endothelial cells. These two types of cells are known to engage in tight and specific interactions that contribute to vascular and oncogenic diseases. The findings from my work (He et al., 2012, Blood) uncovered a critical role for endothelial cells in the induction of M2- macrophage differentiation, which is relevant to the progression of angiogenesis in both developmental and pathological settings. Subsequently, my research on the association between macrophages and endothelial cells in vivo demonstrated that M2-like resident macrophages play a crucial role in regulating vessel permeability through direct cell-cell interactions.
For postdoctoral research, I'm attempting to apply the knowledge of macrophages to oncology field and focus on the role of macrophages in ovarian cancer. In ovarian cancer, more than 75% of mononuclear immune cells close to a tumor are tumor-associated macrophages (TAMs; Wang et al., 2006). Although it has been suggested that macrophages can potentially promote tumor invasion, migration and angiogenesis, no study has yet extensively addressed the role of macrophages in ovarian cancer (Pollard, 2004). We hypothesize that macrophages mediate tumor growth and metastasis through direct interaction with ovarian cancer cells. They play a potential role in regulating cancer cell proliferation, migration and/or survival. We will establish an in vivo imaging model where macrophages can be traced and monitored and their functions can be broadly explored. Such study will provide information on the various mechanisms by which macrophages affect cancer progression, which potentially will lead to the treatment for ovarian cancer and even other types of cancer.