Q & A with Dr Erica Wilson

In the Autumn 2015 issue of The Grey Matters, our printed newsletter, we featured an interview with Dr Erica Wilson, one of the researchers that we're co-funding in Professor Susan Short's team at the University of Leeds.

The team at Leeds are researching how to harness viruses that can kill high grade glioma cells without harming healthy ones.

Why did you become a researcher?

I've always enjoyed asking 'why?' so I never really thought about doing anything else. Understanding the intricacies of how cells work and interact is fascinating.

What excites you about your job?

Being a researcher means being curious about the unknown and working to understand it. That 's a great reason to come to work.

What is your typical day like?

I start early, sort emails and then go into the lab either to check my cell cultures or to begin preparing experiments. I spend about 70% of the time in the lab and the rest in meetings and organising experiments. At the moment I'm in the office a lot, which is necessary so that we can publish our work, but I'd rather be in the lab!

What difference will your work make to patients?

I'm part of the group researching viruses that kill glioblastoma cells. Scientists don't have a good understanding of how the immune system reacts to a virus in the brain, so I'm finding out more about how the brain responds to viruses at the molecular level and if we can manipulate that response. It might seem a long way from patients but if we can harness the power of the immune system it will be a huge benefit.

Can you tell us something surprising about the brain?

Many of the molecules that help us respond to viruses and bacteria in our bodies have completely different functions in the brain. On top of that the immune system in the brain is very different the rest of the body. The immune cells in the brain spend most of their energy trying not to do anything!

Why do we need brain tumour research?

There have been some great strides recently in targeted therapies for cancer, all of which came from basic scientific research. Cancer isn't one thing; it's a million variations of our own cells growing and causing disease. Until we are able to understand that complexity we won't be able to treat it successfully.