Overview of extracellular vesicles

Extracellular vesicles

Definition and Classification of Extracellular Vesicles

Extracellular vesicles are nanosized vesicles with various membrane structures ranging in size from 30nm to 1000nm that are released from cells. They have gained attention as important means of intercellular communication. Based on their size, biosynthetic pathways, and mechanisms of release from cells, extracellular vesicles are classified into exosomes, microvesicles, and apoptotic bodies.

Biosynthesis and Release of Extracellular Vesicles

Extracellular vesicles are synthesized from cytoplasmic membranes or intracellular membrane systems. Exosomes are generated through the formation of intraluminal vesicles within endosomes, which then fuse with multivesicular bodies and subsequently fuse with the cytoplasmic membrane for release. On the other hand, microvesicles are formed by direct shedding from the cytoplasmic membrane. Apoptotic bodies are produced during the process of cell breakdown in apoptosis.

Uptake and Intercellular Communication of Extracellular Vesicles

Extracellular vesicles can bind to receptors on the cell membrane of target cells and transmit information through the cell membrane. They can also be taken up by target cells through endocytosis or pinocytosis, and the information molecules within them can be released, thereby altering the functions of the target cells.

Potential Value of Extracellular Vesicles as Biomarkers

Extracellular vesicles contain various information molecules (proteins, lipids, nucleic acids, etc.) that reflect the state of cells. They have the potential to serve as biomarkers for disease diagnosis and prognostic evaluation.

Association of Extracellular Vesicles with Diseases

Extracellular vesicles are associated with many diseases, including neurological disorders, cardiovascular diseases, cancer, infections, and autoimmune diseases. They have been reported to be involved in the exchange of information between pathological cells and normal cells, contributing to the progression and worsening of diseases. Furthermore, the regulation of extracellular vesicle function is expected to improve pathological conditions and enhance therapeutic effects in disease treatment.

Therapeutic Applications of Extracellular Vesicles

Extracellular vesicles have the potential to generate innovative therapeutic approaches in fields such as regenerative medicine, immunotherapy, and cancer treatment. They exhibit functions such as tissue repair, immune regulation, and anti-cancer effects. These functions are being utilized to develop new treatment strategies. Moreover, the development of drug delivery systems using extracellular vesicles is being investigated, which could efficiently deliver drugs or genes to target cells.

Isolation and Detection Techniques of Extracellular Vesicles

The development of isolation and detection techniques is crucial in the study of extracellular vesicles. Currently, methods such as ultracentrifugation, density gradient centrifugation, immunoprecipitation, and size exclusion chromatography are used for the isolation of extracellular vesicles. For the detection of extracellular vesicles, techniques such as nanoparticle tracking analysis, dynamic light scattering, transmission electron microscopy, immunoelectron microscopy, flow cytometry, and Western blotting are employed. The combination of these techniques allows for more accurate and efficient isolation and detection of extracellular vesicles, providing important information for research and clinical applications.

Future Perspectives of Extracellular Vesicle Research

Extracellular vesicle research is a rapidly advancing field, and further discoveries and technological developments are expected. The use of extracellular vesicles for new approaches in disease diagnosis and treatment is anticipated. Additionally, a deeper understanding of the biological properties and functions of extracellular vesicles is expected to reveal new aspects of intercellular communication and contribute to the fundamental understanding of biology and medicine.

Furthermore, improvements in isolation and detection techniques for extracellular vesicles, as well as advancements in data analysis and modeling techniques, are expected to enhance the precision of extracellular vesicle research and lead to the discovery of more extracellular vesicles associated with various diseases and physiological phenomena.

Ethical Issues in Extracellular Vesicle Research

Ethical considerations are necessary in extracellular vesicle research and applications. With the development of therapeutic and diagnostic techniques using extracellular vesicles, issues such as handling of personal information, privacy protection, patient consent, and information provision are expected to arise. To address these issues, appropriate guidelines and legislation need to be established.

Education and Outreach in Extracellular Vesicle Research

Education and outreach are essential for the widespread recognition of the importance and potential applications of extracellular vesicle research among researchers and healthcare professionals. Universities and research institutions should organize specialized lectures and workshops on extracellular vesicle research to provide students and researchers with the latest knowledge and techniques.

Furthermore, training and seminars on the fundamental knowledge, latest research findings, and clinical applications of extracellular vesicles should be provided to healthcare professionals to promote understanding and dissemination of knowledge. Additionally, public awareness activities are necessary to enlighten the general public about the importance and potential applications of extracellular vesicle research.

Through these educational and outreach activities, the knowledge and techniques of extracellular vesicle research can be widely disseminated, accelerating research and clinical applications. It is also important for the society as a whole to understand the significance of extracellular vesicle research and work towards appropriate ethical judgments and the establishment of legislation.


Extracellular vesicle research has the potential to deepen our understanding of intercellular communication in biology and medicine and provide innovative approaches for disease diagnosis and treatment. As the field advances, a better understanding of the biological properties and functions of extracellular vesicles is expected, leading to the discovery of more extracellular vesicles associated with various diseases and physiological phenomena. Ethical considerations and the establishment of appropriate guidelines and legislation are essential. Through education and outreach activities, the knowledge and techniques of extracellular vesicle research can be widely disseminated, accelerating research and clinical applications.


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