A few questions to Dr Clotilde Théry, INSERM, Institut Curie, Paris

How did you enter the extracellular vesicle (EV) research field and why?

Théry: As a post-doc with Sebastian Amigorena, back in 1998, I was working on the intracellular trafficking of Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) II molecules in antigen presenting cells. Another post doc of Sebastian, Armelle Regnault, was just starting a collaborative project with Graça Raposo and Laurence Zitvogel, on these weird vesicles called exosomes that Graça had shown were released by antigen presenting cells, when she was working in the Netherlands in Hans Geuze's lab. This new team work showed a very exciting ability of dendritic cell exosomes to induce anti-tumor immune responses, by presenting tumor antigen-derived peptides. That is when I decided we had to understand what they were made of, and how they did that! I started with a proteomic analysis of these vesicles (proteomics was a very novel technology at the time), then analysed their cross-talk with dendritic cells in vivo, and from then on and on, until today! We know now that we were not analysing only exo­somes, but a mixture of extracellular veiscles (EVs) from different subcellular origins (e. g. exosomes from MVBs and ectosomes from the plasma membrane), and I am glad that we could make this field evolve, to recognize its complexity and its potential.

The EV field has seen a major boom in publications and projects in the past years – why is this area important? 

Théry: Because the EVs, as a mean of cell-to-cell communication, touch on everything in biology, from the most basic science questions, to the most clinically oriented applications.

Major attention also brings a broad spectrum in research quality – ranging from very well controlled EV-experiments to poorly conducted work. How can we make sure that the results are reliable?

Théry: You are right, there is a huge range of quality in the EV science published nowadays. This is probably because, as in any developing field, identification of the unknown, the artefacts, the unexpected caveats comes with progress. These (artefacts, unexpected etc) are more obvious for people who have been in the field for a while, than for newcomers, who may think, based on simplistic review articles, that “purifying” EVs (or exosomes) is a straightforward and easy task! It is a great asset for the field that it has matured enough to create an academic scientific society, with, at its core, the goal to help good and reliable EV science progress. The efforts of the society to develop guidelines (the so-called “MISEV”), are already helping the field to process towards reproducibility and, hopefully, reliability. At the current stage of our (still limited) knowledge, the MISEV are more a way of bringing the issues to the attention of the scientists, and to provide recommendations on how to describe the protocols used and the expectations, it should not be taken as a list of validated protocols.  

You work as a professor in the “Institut Curie” in Paris – what can today’s researcher learn from a scientist as Marie Curie? 

Théry: Never renounce, follow your inner wishes. For science in general and EV in particular, don't stick on a belief or interpretation if the experiments don't really match it, never hesitate to alter your initial hypotheses!

What do you enjoy outside of your scientific work and how much time do you have for these activities? 

Théry: Not enough time spent outside of scientific work, especially during the Covid19 pandemic, since one of my preferred non-work activities, amateur singing, is a great source of virus dissemination!... 

What makes you laugh? 

Théry: Unexpected situations

Which recommendable book have you read recently? 

Théry: A French one, not yet translated: l’Anomalie.

Do you have a personal motto? 

Théry: Not that I can think of!