UKEV forum 2018 Travel Grant Winners

For the UKEV forum 2018 we opened up a travel grant in which we had five successful applications and as part of this we get them to write a few words about their experience, and gives a good insight to conferences, so here they are.

Left to right: Brian Wang, Daniel Low, Danielle Perro, Sabha Ashgar, Thomas Simon…and of course our very own Dan Lambert!

Brian Wang: The UKEV Forum 2018 was the first meeting of the newly formed UK Society for Extracellular Vesicles (UKEV).  It is a major opportunity to share research results, to build a reputation within the scientific community and to grow research networks within the national as well as international audience. This year’s forum was held at the Edgecliffe Village in Sheffield and was attended by over 220 attendees. Before the forum, the programme was made available to allow me to identify the plenary and concurrent sessions that were of particular interest to me. The programme and the speakers were superb, with the whole day packed with engaging presentations on the field of extracellular vesicles in all fields of scientific research. The programme was very well organised, with the sessions clearly organised into 4 major topics; EVs in the CNS, EV form to function, clinical opportunities and roles in communications, with opportunities to learn about the most up-to-date technology in EV research in each session. This is particularly important in the field of EV research due to the wide range of techniques for isolation and purification. One highlight for me was the presentation given by Alain Brisson on the use of Immuno-Cryo-Electron Microscopy for EV imaging. This was very interesting in understanding the basic principles in the assembly of EVs, which is key in understanding how they work. It was hugely beneficial for me to attend the forum as a young researcher building a reputation within the field. This was the first time I had presented my research as an oral presenter. Presenting at a conference specialising in EV research was a unique opportunity for my work to receive input from leaders of the field. I was asked about my future research and career plans and given advice about future directions to move my research. It was very beneficial for me to see that my attendance and participation is generating interest and networks within the field. Overall, this forum was hugely beneficial for my research, both in terms of my current project as well as future directions for my work. This travel grant facilitated an important opportunity for me to accomplish major steps in my career; presenting my results, meeting the leaders in the field, broadening my knowledge and shaping the future direction of my work. I’d like to thank the UK EV society for providing this travel grant, for facilitating my attendance at this conference and for helping to further my research and career prospects.

Daniel Low: Having recently completed my final year research project in feline urinary MVs, the UKEV Forum 2018 was a great opportunity to showcase my work as well as to gain exposure to the wider EV research community in general. In the final year of my undergraduate degree in veterinary medicine, I undertook a laboratory-based research project and in hindsight, was very glad that I had done so. Although this was my first foray into the bioveterinary sciences, my supervisors and I were able to demonstrate an association between feline urinary MVs and feline chronic kidney disease. To our knowledge, feline urinary MVs had yet to be investigated and therefore, we felt that this forum was an excellent opportunity to share our work with researchers in this field.The start time of 8:30am meant that I had to set off in the early morning, given the three-hour journey. I arrived as planned and began setting up my poster. Shortly after some refreshments, the delegates were gathered into the hall as the first session began. The morning session consisted of presentations from keynote speakers and selected abstracts and opened my eyes to the breadth of EV research being undertaken. We adjourned downstairs for a short break before the second session, where the second keynote speaker gave a fascinating presentation on visualising EVs with immuno-cryo-electron microscopy. Series of one-minute snap presentations was scheduled just before lunchtime and the thirteen of us were lined up by the podium, ready to go. I was eighth in line and before I knew it, I had the microphone in my hand. I had managed to condense my findings and its significance into 60 seconds, but this barely scraped the surface, and so I encouraged the attendees to visit my poster over lunch, where they could find out more. I stationed myself by my poster, hoping that my snap presentation had generated interest in my project. Traffic around the poster boards was low initially, as everyone was queuing up for food. Eventually though, more people streamed in and even more hearteningly, some came over to look at my poster! I fielded questions from attendees, most of whom were not working in the veterinary field. Some researchers also kindly gave feedback about my materials and methods, and how I could improve on my isolation methods in future studies. The afternoon session featured presentations which discussed the clinical applicability of EVs in conditions such as gestational diabetes and myocardial infarction, and the role of the EV in cell communication. Overall, this forum was excellent exposure and has shown me that the future of EV research is promising. It was an excellent opportunity to immerse myself in the EV community, and I am very grateful to the organisers for the travel grant and for the opportunity to present my work.

Danielle Perro: I’d like to sincerely express my gratitude for the financial support of my attendance at UKEV2018.  This assistance allowed me the opportunity to actively engage with leaders in my field of research, and learn about recent advancements that I may not have had the opportunity to had I not attended. As a first year DPhil student, my project has evolved since arriving at Oxford. My project trajectory is now primarily focused on the role of microvesicles (MV) in endometriosis. Prior to attending the UKEV2018, I was excited to be exploring MV in a disease where very little is known, let alone the role that MV may play. When attending this conference, I had figured that the uncertainties in my project would largely lie in the disease itself rather than MV. However, attending UKEV2018 changed my perspective. This forum revealed the discrepancies that exist in the study of EV, especially in regard to sizing and subsequent characterization. Aware of the uncertainties, even amongst a group of accomplished researchers and esteemed presenters, I was able to adapt an ethics proposal for my preliminary work that more accurately reflects current standards for studying EV. In addition, I’ve learned of new technologies and updated methodologies that will inform the work that I do and collaborations that I engage with throughout the duration of my studies. At the forum, I was able to network with researchers in the field that are both novice like myself, and those who were more experienced. In both regards, I was able to learn about challenges faced by researchers at different stages in their careers. As a first-year student, it was incredible to hear from those who are very early on in their research degree as it put into perspective the realities of studying such an up-and-coming and simultaneously challenging area of science. This conference was informative and encouraging, and I am excited to be completing research as a member of the UKEV community. Once again, I’d like to thank the UKEV for their support. This forum has been instrumental in establishing my network of EV researchers, elaborating on ways to become more involved within the community, and informing my MV work. 

Sabha Asghar: I was able to attend the Fifth Annual Forum (1st Annual Meeting) of the UK Society for Extracellular Vesicles (UKEV), with the help of a UKEV travel grant. As the only member of my research team working on EVs, I was able to use this opportunity to present my work (‘comparative effect of synovial membrane and fat explant derived exosomes on cartilage pathology in osteoarthritis’) and receive valuable critical feedback from professionals in the field. It also allowed me to connect with the wider, cutting edge research taking place with EVs. This was especially important for me, as I am now in the crucial final stages of my PhD and am deciding in which direction future experiments should take.
With over 220 attendees at different stages of their career I was able to improve my knowledge on current techniques, methodology and analysis of EV detection, function and impact on disease. It was rewarding to meet other researcher working in the EV fields and to discover the cutting-edge research and technological innovation being utilised. The poster sessions in particular provided an excellent opportunity to network, discuss current work and ask questions. The programme put together by the society encompassed a wide variety of talks from both leaders and early career researchers in the field. A special mention should go to the keynote speakers, Juan Falcon-Perez, Laura Ferraiuolo and Alain Brisson (whose immune-cyro-electron microscopy images were amazing!).
To date, I have isolated and characterised exosomes from different sources, determined their uptake and effects on human osteoarthritis cartilage samples and undertaken small RNA sequencing on exosome preparations. The meeting provided me with an opportunity to pass on my own experiences to those new to the field and as well as gaining knowledge from those more experienced. In particular, insights into RNA sequencing analysis of exosomes – both from academics and industry sponsors – has allowed me to begin to analyse exosome cargo and move my project onto its final stages. ECV specific instruments shown by sponsors including Qiagen, Stratech and Merck gave insight into future experimentation.
Finally, I would like to thank the University of the West of Scotland and the UK Society of Extracellular Vesicles for giving me the opportunity to attend this conference. Gathering EV scientists into one venue means great discussion and knowledge exchange on cutting edge research and the opportunity to build collaborations. This is the only UK based ECV conference and a fabulous opportunity to highlight the novel translational research being undertaken. Thanks should also go to my sponsors (ARUK and Tenovus Scotland), supervisors (Dr Anne Crilly, Dr Gary Litherland, Professor John Lockhart and Professor Carl Goodyear) and team for their support and guidance. I look forward to attending the 2019 Annual Meeting of the UK Society for Extracellular Vesicles (UKEV) in London

Thomas Simon: UKEV 2018 at the University of Sheffield was a great opportunity to meet some of the UK leaders in the EV field. As during ISEV meetings, the UKEV forum 2018 also allowed me to compare methods and protocols with other EV researchers.
Many companies were also attending, introducing innovative methods and instruments for EV isolation and analysis. Interestingly, as EV-researchers are getting into more and more complex, yet fair and essential, questions, especially regarding the deciphering of different EV subpopulations, companies seem to be trying to catch up on these questions by proposing new developments in current methods. Thus, for instance NanoView Biosciences introduced their own nanoparticle analysis device that would allow for the identification of EV sub-populations and detection of surface makers co-localisation.
Scientific content was obviously also of great interest to me and extremely motivating for my own research. More specifically, keynote talks by Laura Ferraiuolo and Alain Brisson have been really inspiring. Laura’s work focuses on how astrocytes can contribute to Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) through EVs. For her study, Laura uses induced astrocytes (iAstrocytes), obtained from human skin biopsies (reprogrammed fibroblasts). This is potentially a very interesting model for our own research at Giamas lab as we are currently trying to decipher the role of astrocytesderived EVs in glioblastoma (GBM) progression. Unfortunately, our current astrocytes (primary cells) model is very limited in terms of cell culture passages thus greatly impacting on our experiments and production of EV material. Using Laura’s model of reprogrammed fibroblasts could be an option for my future GBM-related projects involving astrocytes. In the same way, Alain Brisson’s talk about the use of Cryo-electron microscopy (EM), coupled with gold labelling, for EV visualisation and characterisation really caught my attention. Indeed, Cryo-EM allows for a more accurate and less destructive observation of EVs. As compared to ‘standard’ transmission electron microscopy (TEM), for which EVs are eventually damaged, cryo-EM seems to allow for better resolution and conservation of the material’s size and structure (including the lipid bi-layer membrane) as well as sub-structures (mitochondria?) in the vesicles. Using cryo-EM might also be part of our future work in the lab as it is now available at the University of Sussex. Furthermore, in accordance with Alain Brisson’s presentation, talk 2 showed evidences for a potential transfer of functional mitochondria via EVs from neural stem cells to phagocytes in order to rescue their mitochondrial dysfunction. As suggested during this talk, such EV-dependent transfer could be involved in glioma cells effect on type II macrophages during cancer progression, thus decreasing immune response. Finally, talk 10 by Catherin Probert was also of great interest to me. Her work aims to decipher how various prostate cancer cells with different metastasis potentials can accordingly stimulate the formation of distant bone metastatic niches. Both the rationale and main methods of the study are similar to our current work on GBM cells/astrocytes interactions at Giamas lab. Through exploring EV-RNA, authors have reported new potential mechanisms involved in prostate cancer metastasis. In addition to fascinating talks, the different poster sessions were good opportunities for exchanging ideas and getting fruitful feedbacks on my own poster. Most importantly, discussions I had with researchers and students during the poster sessions were mostly about methods and protocols and how to improve them, in a very open-minded and friendly atmosphere. This, to me, represents the essence of the constantly evolving/improving EV field.

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