EVs and Inflammation (Trauma & Burns)

Dr. Paul Harrison is a senior lecturer from the University of Birmingham, the Institute of Inflammation and Ageing.  He had been working in haematology since 1983 and have interested in extracellular vesicles since the 90s. At the moment he is based in the institute of inflammation and ageing which the laboratory is based in the major trauma and burn centre in hospital.  His research is looking at the inflammatory response that occurred both in trauma and burnt patients in post injury.  He proposes vesicles are vectors of inflammation so when cells become activated particularly during systemic inflammatory response that occurs during trauma or post trauma and post burn injury, the cells stop releasing under stress and also suddenly damage large number of vesicles which are pro inflammatory that can actually carry pro inflammatory cytokines on the surface.


Do you think EV research has grown over the last decade?

Paul Harrison: Yes it has so I was involved in a lot of EV research when I was previously based in Oxford at the Churchill hospital.  They had a laboratory look at vesicles in health and disease.  I started having both nations and international meetings on vesicles and I hosted one of the first of those in Magdalene Collage in 2010 where we had a 170 people come from all over the world.  And as a consequence of that meeting and some other meetings held by people in the field, international site of extracellular vesicles then set up in about 2012 and the national society like UK has started.

As it has grown, do you feel that there is a sense of community among EV researchers?

Paul Harrison: Definitely so we have got two communities come together, we got the exosome community which is been around for long long time and this are proper cell biologists who work on exosome that are released by all cells and the important communication mechanism between cells.  But in my background, I work on microvesicles which in those days we called them microparticles.  They derived from cells by activation mechanisms.  And so it is really nice that we brought together that two communities and we found that we have a lot of common problems associated with measurement definition and trying to understand the biology of these vesicles so it has been really good because we helped them and they helped us.

How do you think EV research can be beneficial to the public and do you think EVs can change the world?

Paul Harrison: I think one of the problems is it is a relatively new field.  There is a lot of review articles in the literature almost every week a review article comes out about the potential of extracellular vesicles and health and disease.  My interest is EV as biomarkers for disease but I’m now have a lot more interest in therapeutic aspects of vesicle particularly exosome.  I think there is danger and overhyping the potential, I think there is potential so as a field we gonna be very very be careful going forward and I think the formation of this national and international societies is really helping in stabilisation and setting standards in the field for minimum information if you go to publish anything on vesicles, you got to provide some basic information about your isolation procedure, your measurement method because without that information we not gonna progress.  And so I think there is a problem the field you could argue is a bit of a mess but I think there are improvements and I good example of this is the new guidelines which has just came out at the journal of extracellular vesicles which sort of discuss all the issue in the field and come up with minimum recommendations.

Do you think is important for the public to know about EVs and also in other scientific research?

Paul Harrison: Yes I think one of the issues nowadays is justifying funding of our research so more and more funding bodies and most do fund our vesicle research requires us to engage with the public and I know the public do not understand all the cells in science but I think is important that we communicate with them and let them know why we are trying to do and get their feedbacks.  And certainly in Birmingham might be involved in many public engagement recently and we finding that the public are not only critical but they actually come up with some good ideas which sometimes with different view points can actually come up with some really good suggestions.  So I think it is really important the public understand what we doing even it is just in a basic level and then it helps justify the funding.  For instance in trauma and burns the work that I do, we do actually have events with trauma and burns patients, patients that have recovered from their injuries and so they are actually very very helpful in supporting our research and making suggestions with what we should do.

When do you first heard about EVs?

Paul Harrison: The first time I heard about EVs was in conference that I used to go to in the 1980s.  This was an international society for thrombosis and haemostasis.  And there was this concept of what we called platelet dust.  So in 1967 there was a landmark paper in the British journal of haematology by a guy called Wolf and what he shown was a centrifugable microvesicles component in blood plasma that derived from platelets and by using ultracentrifugation you could actually spin away this biological activity.  So historically in my field particularly in haemostasis field, we used to call it platelet dust then it got called microparticles and now we called them microvesicles or even extracellular vesicles.

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?

Paul Harrison: So I am particularly interested in what we called measurement problem and the problem with measuring vesicles is a number of things – they are very small so it is difficult to fully characterised them using one procedure or one methodology.  So what was exciting about today’s conference is that there are number of commercial presentations where they are presenting new technologies that can measure small vesicles so one of these was the nano cytometer that was presented by one of the companies.  And this afternoon there is also another company called Nano-View representing their technology.  So one of the issues is how to measure the small vesicles, in my point of view I want to be able to measure those because then we can fully charaterized all of the vesicles particularly as biomarkers. 

If I gave you a billion pound, what kind of research would you spend it on?

Paul Harrison: I think with that amount of money, we could perhaps set up a dedicated institute for vesicle research somewhere in the UK.  But obviously if it was based in Oxford or Cambridge we are in the golden triangle, it might be better to attract more funding.  And also to collaborate with university researches.  So with that amount of money, you could set up institute without problem.

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