Impact of biofluid viscosity on size and sedimentation efficiency of the isolated microvesicles

Front Physiol. 2012 May 28;3:162. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2012.00162. eCollection 2012.


Microvesicles are nano-sized lipid vesicles released by all cells in vivo and in vitro. They are released physiologically under normal conditions but their rate of release is higher under pathological conditions such as tumors. Once released they end up in the systemic circulation and have been found and characterized in all biofluids such as plasma, serum, cerebrospinal fluid, breast milk, ascites, and urine. Microvesicles represent the status of the donor cell they are released from and they are currently under intense investigation as a potential source for disease biomarkers. Currently, the "gold standard" for isolating microvesicles is ultracentrifugation, although alternative techniques such as affinity purification have been explored. Viscosity is the resistance of a fluid to a deforming force by either shear or tensile stress. The different chemical and molecular compositions of biofluids have an effect on its viscosity and this could affect movements of the particles inside the fluid. In this manuscript we addressed the issue of whether viscosity has an effect on sedimentation efficiency of microvesicles using ultracentrifugation. We used different biofluids and spiked them with polystyrene beads and assessed their recovery using the Nanoparticle Tracking Analysis. We demonstrate that MVs recovery inversely correlates with viscosity and as a result, sample dilutions should be considered prior to ultracentrifugation when processing any biofluids.

Keywords: biofluids; micovesicles; sedimentation efficiency; size; ultracentrifugation; viscosity.