BCF Project Grant

Dr Colin Hisey and Dr Cherie Blenkiron from the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology were awarded the Breast Cancer Foundation (BCF) Project Grant which focuses on the catch-and-release – a new way of monitoring treatment effectiveness in breast cancer patients. 

Researchers have been struggling to figure out how best to detect remaining cancer cells in patients’ bodies. Extracellular vesicles (EVs) – tiny packages released by all cells – travel in our blood. We can identify where they come from, including from a tumour. Scientists believe there’s potential to track the number of breast cancer-specific EVs in blood samples to determine if more treatment is needed, or that the cancer has returned. But because healthy EVs vastly outnumber the cancer cells, Dr Colin Hisey and Dr Cherie Blenkiron from University of Auckland are working on a new device that will catch the cancer EVs, while releasing the healthy EVs. This method of isolating cancer EVs could be a low cost and non-invasive tool to improve breast cancer patients’ treatment and recurrence monitoring.


FRDF Project Grant


Associate Professor Mhoyra Fraser was awarded the Faculty Development Research Funding (FRDF) Project Grant focusing on the role of extracellular vesicles in communication.

Oxygen deprivation occurring in the womb or during delivery leads to permanent functional impairment of the brain and is one of the most common challenges faced by infants born preterm. Because of major advances in neonatal intensive care, survival of these preterm infants with brain injury has increased significantly. However, currently, there are no effective therapies to reduce injury. A major therapy limitation is the failure to traverse the blood brain barrier (BBB) and enter the brain. Exosomes, small vesicles, are naturally capable of penetrating the BBB, and have the capacity to communicate with the microenvironment through transfer of proteins, miRNA and other nucleic acids. Importantly, they have an intrinsic neuroprotective therapeutic activity as well as being ideal candidates to deliver targeted therapeutic molecules of choice through modifications to enhance delivery. These proposed studies will examine the intrinsic therapeutic potential of unmodified human fetal neural stem cell-derived exosomes to ameliorate preterm brain injury to previously inaccessible regions of the brain using our well-established animal model of preterm brain injury.



FRDF Project Grant


Senior Lecturer Lynsey Cree was awarded the Faculty Research Development  Funding (FRDF) Project Grant focusing on the role of extracellular vesicles in IVF and pregnancy.

IVF offers infertile couples the best chance of having a baby, but the success rates remain low at approximately 30%, with rates falling further in women of advanced maternal age. IVF failure occurs largely due to 2 reasons, the embryo is of poor quality and has a chromosomal abnormality or the maternal endometrial cells are unreceptive to the embryo. In this study the aim is to assess a new mechanism that some morphologically high quality embryos are failing to release the correct signals to aid the embryo-endometrial cross-talk prior to implantation. We believe extracellular vesicles will play an important role in this cross-talk, but isolating these vesicles is challenging as the numbers of vesicles released from the embryo are low. To aid this isolation we are developing a microfluidic device to selectively target embryonic EVs in the embryo culture media. This novel device will allow us to assess the differences in the signals released from embryos that implant versus those that don’t.

Please keep us posted on any grants received, articles published or any other action happening around EV research

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