Despite an enormous interest in the role of extracellular vesicles, including exosomes, in cancer and their use as biomarkers for diagnosis, prognosis, drug response and recurrence, there is no consensus on dependable isolation protocols. Now, researchers at Ghent University Hospital have performed a comparative evaluation of 4 exosome isolation protocols for their usability, yield and purity, and their impact on downstream omics approaches for biomarker discovery.
They found that OptiPrep density gradient centrifugation outperforms ultracentrifugation and ExoQuick and Total Exosome Isolation precipitation in terms of purity, as illustrated by the highest number of CD63-positive nanovesicles, the highest enrichment in exosomal marker proteins and a lack of contaminating proteins such as extracellular Argonaute-2 complexes. The purest exosome fractions reveal a unique mRNA profile enriched for translation, ribosome, mitochondrion and nuclear lumen function. These results demonstrate that implementation of high purification techniques is a prerequisite to obtain reliable omics data and identify exosome-specific functions and biomarkers.