Development of a Highly Sensitive Device for Counting the Number of Disease-Specific Exosomes in Human Sera

Clin Chem. 2018 Oct;64(10):1463-1473. doi: 10.1373/clinchem.2018.291963. Epub 2018 Jul 18.


Background: Although circulating exosomes in blood play crucial roles in cancer development and progression, difficulties in quantifying exosomes hamper their application for reliable clinical testing. By combining the properties of nanobeads with optical disc technology, we have developed a novel device named the ExoCounter to determine the exact number of exosomes in the sera of patients with various types of cancer.

Method: In this system, individual exosomes were captured in the groove of an optical disc coated with antibodies against exosome surface antigens. The captured exosomes were labeled with antibody-conjugated magnetic nanobeads, and the number of the labeled exosomes was counted with an optical disc drive.

Results: We showed that the ExoCounter could detect specific exosomes derived from cells or human serum without any enrichment procedures. The detection sensitivity and linearity with this system were higher than those with conventional detection methods such as ELISA or flow cytometry. In addition to the ubiquitous exosome markers CD9 and CD63, the cancer-related antigens CD147, carcinoembryonic antigen, and human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) were also used to quantify cancer cell line-derived exosomes. Furthermore, analyses of a cross-sectional cohort of sera samples revealed that HER2-positive exosomes were significantly increased in patients with breast cancer or ovarian cancer compared with healthy individuals and those with noncancer diseases.

Conclusions: The ExoCounter system exhibits high performance in the direct detection of exosomes in cell culture and human sera. This method may enable reliable analysis of liquid biopsies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • A549 Cells
  • Antigens, Neoplasm / blood*
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / blood*
  • Exosomes* / immunology
  • HCT116 Cells
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Humans
  • Lab-On-A-Chip Devices*
  • Microchip Analytical Procedures / methods*
  • Neoplasms / blood*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Staining and Labeling
  • Tetraspanin 30 / immunology


  • Antigens, Neoplasm
  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • CD63 protein, human
  • Tetraspanin 30