Alternative methods for characterization of extracellular vesicles

Front Physiol. 2012 Sep 7:3:354. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2012.00354. eCollection 2012.


Extracellular vesicles (ECVs) are nano-sized vesicles released by all cells in vitro as well as in vivo. Their role has been implicated mainly in cell-cell communication, but also in disease biomarkers and more recently in gene delivery. They represent a snapshot of the cell status at the moment of release and carry bioreactive macromolecules such as nucleic acids, proteins, and lipids. A major limitation in this emerging new field is the availability/awareness of techniques to isolate and properly characterize ECVs. The lack of gold standards makes comparing different studies very difficult and may potentially hinder some ECVs-specific evidence. Characterization of ECVs has also recently seen many advances with the use of Nanoparticle Tracking Analysis, flow cytometry, cryo-electron microscopy instruments, and proteomic technologies. In this review, we discuss the latest developments in translational technologies involving characterization methods including the facts in their support and the challenges they face.

Keywords: characterization; concentration; exosome; extracellular vesicles; methods; microvesicles; size.