Understanding extracellular vesicles (EVs) in the context of cancer biology

Cell-cell communication is an integral physiological process that relies on the sending and receiving of signals. This project will focus on an integrated system biology approach directed towards isolation, characterisation and functional understanding of secreted molecules (secretome/EVs) in the context of cancer biology. We use various cell models to investigate the contribution of the extracellular environment during cancer initiation, development, epithelial-mesenchymal transition, and metastasis.

Further, these studies will investigate EV internalisation and uptake, in addition to targeted functional analyses of EVs. Conventional biological assays for cell proliferation, motility, migration, invasiveness, spheroid, fibroblast/endothelial cell activation, are already established in our lab. Using global profiling approaches, including proteomic (mass-spectrometry based profiling) and genomic (miR/mRNA profiling) analyses, we intend to catalogue and identify the contribution of EVs during cancer progression, especially induced expression of signalling pathway receptors/ modulators.

This project will investigate the following questions:
(1) How many different EV subtypes are there? Different EV types may have a definitive localisation/function in specific recipient cells due to their surface markers or specific cargo contained within
(2) What are the different methods to purify the secretome and distinct EV subtypes?
(3) What are the distinct functions of the secretome and EVs during cancer initiation, development, epithelial-mesenchymal transition, and metastasis?
(4 )What cargo/surface components (protein/nucleic acids) are contained within EVs?
(5) Can distinct cargo components in EVs be perturbed using molecular biology?