Extracellular RNAs (exRNAs) have been identified in all tested biofluids and have been associated with a variety of extracellular vesicles, ribonucleoprotein complexes and lipoprotein complexes. Much of the interest in exRNAs lies in the fact that they may serve as signalling molecules between cells, their potential to serve as biomarkers for prediction and diagnosis of disease and the possibility that exRNAs or the extracellular particles that carry them might be used for therapeutic purposes.
The Extracellular RNA (exRNA) Communication Consortium, funded as an initiative of the NIH Common Fund, represents a consortium of investigators assembled to address the critical issues in the exRNA research arena. The overarching goal is to generate a multi-component community resource for sharing fundamental scientific discoveries, protocols, and innovative tools and technologies.
The key initiatives include:
(a) generating a reference catalogue of exRNAs present in body fluids of normal healthy individuals that would facilitate disease diagnosis and therapies,
(b) defining the fundamental principles of exRNA biogenesis, distribution, uptake, and function, as well as development of molecular tools, technologies, and imaging modalities to enable these studies,
(c) identifying exRNA biomarkers of disease,
(d) demonstrating clinical utility of exRNAs as therapeutic agents and developing scalable technologies required for these studies, and
(e) developing a community resource, the exRNA Atlas, to provide the scientific community access to exRNA data, standardized exRNA protocols, and other useful tools and technologies generated by funded investigators.
Structure of the Extracellular RNA Communication Consortium.
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