Extracellular vesicles – small messengers with a big message

Our trustees have recently approved a grant of £18,700 for Dr Stuart Hunt and his research team at The University of Sheffield, School of Dentistry, to support the cost of consumables for a PhD research project.

Dr Hunt explains the project here:

Extracellular vesicles (EVs) are tiny bubble-like structures released by cancer cells that are taken up by normal cells that surround the tumour. EVs contain molecular messages that cause normal cells to change their behaviour to support the tumour. Our data shows that EVs released by head and neck cancer cells contain molecules that cause resistance to chemotherapy and also promote the spread of cancer. During the current project we will test how these molecules are packaged into EVs, the effect they have on recipient normal cells, and if EVs could be new therapeutic targets to improve the treatment of future patients.

EVs will be isolated from cancer cells grown in the laboratory. We will measure their size and concentration using specialist equipment at The University of Sheffield. EV contents will be purified and analysed to identify the molecular messages inside. We will then disrupt these messages by a technique called gene editing and see if this changes how EVs signal to normal cells surrounding the tumour.
The generous financial support from Get A-Head will pay for access to specialist equipment and also for chemicals that are essential for the research.

This support will enable Anita (Xinming) Liu, a new student who has just joined the School of Clinical Dentistry, to carry out state-of-the-art research during her PhD studies. Anita will be supervised by Dr Stuart Hunt and Dr Daniel Lambert. This project will complement the research activities of Dr Hunt and Dr Lambert, whose research focuses on understanding how head and neck cancers grow and spread.

Photo credit: Martin Lopez: https://www.pexels.com/photo/two-test-tubes-954585/