“EVs are bags that contain mysterious amount of objects or molecules that all have different functions and EV research is like down into the bag, pulling something out and trying to work out what it is.”Dr Victoria James
Dr. Victoria James is an assistant professor in the University of Nottingham and she works on extracellular vesicles in prostate cancer. The kind of research that she and her teams are doing is to try figure out whether extracellular vesicles are the mechanism by which the tumour of the prostate can talk to the cells and the bones, and if it is, is it a mechanism that could be blocked or stopped, or somehow reversed to prevent those cancer cells from spreading to the bones and preventing patients from having the most aggressive disease and worse outcomes.
How do you find out about EVs at first and what drew you into this field?
Victoria James: I think I first started to read a few paper and I am interested in this communication mechanism in prostate and bone, and I was thinking what things can we look at so maybe is protein or somethings else. At that time I was working at the University of Sheffield where people already working in vesicles so it is quite easy to go knock on their door and say I am interested in this and that’s where I first started.
How does that work? Have you found anything while studying?
Victoria James: Just recently we have published a paper which got some really exciting finding in them and we see that vesicles do communicate with bone cells and made the bone cells go really weird things and make them become really active. We have looked at different cargos that inside these vesicles and we starting to figure out which elements that the cargo carry are really important, and we have fell like we are turning a corner on it.
While working on EVs, do you think that extracellular vesicles research have grown in the past few years?
Victoria James: Definitely! When I first started, it felt quite small and since then it just seems to have exploded and I would say now, probably in monthly basis, people are contacting me saying “I wanna get into EV research”, “I read you paper, can you just give me some few tips”, “can you just help me out with this”. And the answer is always “yes” because I have loved the field so much and it is growing massively and I can see it getting bigger not smaller.
As it is getting bigger, have you noticed a greatest sense of community among researchers?
Victoria James: One thing I love about vesicle field is it always have a nice community field. Everybody is always been willing to help each other. When I started, I got invited to go and give a talk at the Royal Society and by lots people that now run the UK EV society and that really kick started how I got involved in the field. Everybody is always been really supportive with me and my work, and the techniques that I have trying to developed in years. I have noticed that just go throughout the community, not just the UK but also the European community and the US as well, it seems like its a really difficult field to work in and you really have to struggled through to get the tools working and get things to happen. I think within that hardship, it forms a nice community spirit and we share that between.
How do you think EV research can change the world?
Victoria James: It definitely can change the world. I think we need a few steps change at the way we do things. At the moment we are hitting our heads against the wall but as technology develops, that is the most exciting era and I think EV research at the moment is the technology develop. We will be able to get things into clinics so we will be able to look at patient samples very quickly so I think the biomarkers field is going to explode and I think that gonna be game changing for patients. But also I think we will see a bit change in therapeutic approaches as people are very interested in using vesicles tools to deliver drugs and deliver other therapeutic cargos so I think they are probably the two areas that where we are going to see most change and I think that is gonna be massive.
Do you think it is important to share this kind of research, not only the EV research but also scientific research, with the general public?
Victoria James: Yes I think that is essential. Working in prostate cancer field I often go back to patient groups and they are really interested to know what we are doing at lab. When I tell them about the work we are doing, they always come up with thousands of questions and things that I have never thought of before, but they are so relevant to the disease and so relevant to the patient picture, and that is essential and feeds to my work so much. So I think communicating with the broad public is essential to what we do because it help us more not anything else and it is an exciting area of work which people really want to know about.
From the talk that you had today, is there anything you found particularly fascinating? Any recent research that you have read about that you found interest?
Victoria James: All of the talks today are amazing. I have been completely taken away by how people developed some sort of standard techniques and really push them to the boundary of what they are able to achieve with them. I think one that really sticks my mind today and that was looking at prions and how package into vesicles. This suddenly stroke me that if that package into vesicles maybe we can target these prions in mis-folding proteins and actually to get rid of them. At the moment if you are human and you get prion disease, there is nothing you can do about it but this work although was on yeast, the applications in human disease could be massive and we could be looking and developing a treatment for patients.
If you have a billion pounds, what kind of research would you spend it on?
Victoria James: I would start a centre for vesicles research. I’ve always have a hope in the UK where if you want to do some vesicle research, you can just come and do it. You would not need to replicate or everybody has their individual labs, start from scratch and learn the hard way, you can just bring what you wanted, you could come, we’ll have an environment where will be welcome and open to everybody and we will just try to accelerate vesicle researches quickly as we could. That’s what I want to do.