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. 2019 Jan 16;6(1):7.
doi: 10.3390/bioengineering6010007.

Extracellular Vesicle Quantification and Characterization: Common Methods and Emerging Approaches

Free PMC article

Extracellular Vesicle Quantification and Characterization: Common Methods and Emerging Approaches

Thomas A Hartjes et al. Bioengineering (Basel). .
Free PMC article


Extracellular vesicles (EVs) are a family of small membrane vesicles that carry information about cells by which they are secreted. Growing interest in the role of EVs in intercellular communication, but also in using their diagnostic, prognostic and therapeutic potential in (bio) medical applications, demands for accurate assessment of their biochemical and physical properties. In this review, we provide an overview of available technologies for EV analysis by describing their working principles, assessing their utility in EV research and summarising their potential and limitations. To emphasise the innovations in EV analysis, we also highlight the unique possibilities of emerging technologies with high potential for further development.

Keywords: Extracellular vesicles (EVs), methods for EV analysis; emerging technologies.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare no conflict of interest.


Figure 1
Figure 1
Schematic representation of the major pathways for biogenesis and secretion of extracellular vesicles (EVs). Exosomes are formed by inward budding of early endosomes and secreted by fusion of these multivesicular bodies with the plasma membrane. Microvesicles are created by direct outward budding of the plasma membrane. The vesicles that are generated upon programmed cell death-induced membrane blebbing are referred to as apoptotic bodies.
Figure 2
Figure 2
(a) Schematic classification of common technologies for EV analysis, as used in this review. (b,c) Analysis of the recent literature (5 years, 2013–2018) based on a PubMed search using the terms [extracellular vesicles] or [vesicles] or [exosomes] together with [quantification] in their title or abstract. From these publications, 214 available research publications described one or more technologies for EV analysis in the abstract, method or results sections (b). Non-English publications, reviews or publications that did not focus on EV analysis were excluded. Analysis of synthetic vesicles was included. (c) Frequency of usage of technologies for EV analysis in these publications, as classified as in this review. With this unbiased analysis we do not claim to cover the complete field of EV research. A more systematic analysis using targeted searches for specific techniques will certainly show additional publications on EV analysis, but this is outside the scope of the review.

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