EVs and Pregnancy

During pregnancy the mother immune system undergoes a lot of changes which help her tolerate the presence of foetus in the placenta in her body. One of the mechanisms for inducing the tolerance is thought to be the release of extracellular vesicles from the placenta into the circulation. Dr. Beth Holder is a lecturer in Imperial College and she has a background in placental biology and reproductive immunology which is the study of immune system in pregnancy. She particularly interested in how extracellular vesicles involve in communication between the mother’s immune system and the placenta during pregnancy. Her research now is focus on whether vesicles also traffic from the mother’s immune system to the placenta and so if the mother’s immune system undergoes changes they can play a role in modulating placenta functions.

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

Beth Holder: Absolutely so I have worked on vesicles ever since my PhD ten year ago.  The aim of the PhD is to look at microvesicles in pregnancy and when I started I would say I work in microvesicle that no one knew what I was talking about and had to always explain what microvesicle is.  And then after my PhD, I moved to do a postdoctoral in immunology then I came back to the vesicle field and instantly when you mention vesicles and everyone knew what you are talking about so definitely knowledge is growing and lots of people and lots of different fields are interested in vesicles.

Do you think as the field is growing that there is a larger sense of community among researches who study EVs?

Beth Holder: Yes definitely. Every time I came to the vesicle meeting, I always felt that I am really included and I got to know more people every time I come.  And now when I come to UK EV meeting, I struggle to find time to meet new people because I have to catch up with people.  It is a really nice community and everyone is really helpful. I think because in a way we are not competing as much, people are working on EVs in their particular area so you can share all your knowledge about labels to use or inhibitors to use or different techniques, and you can all go off and do exactly the same techniques but answering completely different biological questions.

Do you think EV research may allow significant advancement in medical sense or in wider sense of society?

Beth Holder: So my PhD was looking at developing cell therapy so the idea is to take immune cells from a patient with immune disease and reprogrammed them in the lab and put them back in the patient.  I think cell therapy has shown good promise but they have some issues because they have to be generated specifically for that patient and you have to work on those specific conditions and it takes a lot of time to generate that therapy for that patient.  So I think EVs been shown also be able to be used in the way to cell therapy but you can generate lots of EVs in the lab and I think that probably an area will be massive in the future.

Do you think is important for the general public to know what is going on in EV research or scientific research in general?

Beth Holder: Yes, I think it is really important for the public especially my research is involved in patients samples. It is really important to communicate research to the patients that involves so they understand why we are asking them to take part in our studies and also to disseminate the study finding at the end.  Also, a lot of researches funded by tax payers’ money so we have a duty to make sure we make our science important to the public.

In your own word to someone who ever heard about EVs before, how would you describe EVs?

Beth Holder: There are lot of different ways to describe them, some people called them parcel or packages or bubbles.  So I would say bubbles since there are little air inside them.  Another way of describing them is little parcel because the cells contain messages which they then send out into blood stream and travels around and other cells can receive parcel then open up and react to the messages that they find inside.

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?

Beth Holder: As I guess from today’s talks, I really like Sarah Stewart’s presentation because she used quite a simple method just using trypsin to enzymatically drip the extracellular vesicles and move their protein on the outside and then for the proteomist to look at proteins that are there on the outside of the vesicle and inside.

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

Beth Holder: I think I would do the same as what I am doing now because when you have a research going on, you have to be very focus because everything has to be achievable in that time frame. So my research focus on monocytes macrophage extracellular vesicles but I love to study all the vesicles in the pregnant women bloodstream during pregnancy and form a big profile understanding where they are coming from and employ a whole statisticians to understand what is going on. 

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