Extracellular vesicles (EVs) are essential intercellular communication tools, but the regulatory mechanisms governing heterogeneous EV secretion are still unclear due to the lack of methods for precise analysis. Monitoring the dynamics of secretion from individually isolated cells is crucial because in bulk analysis, secretion activity can be perturbed by cell-cell interactions, and a cell population rarely performs secretion in a magnitude- or duration-synchronized manner. Although various microfluidic techniques have been adopted to evaluate the abundance of single-cell-derived EVs, none can track their secretion dynamics continually for extended periods.
Researchers at the University of Tokyo have developed a droplet array-based method that allowed us to optically quantify the EV secretion dynamics of >300 single cells every 2 h for 36 h, which covers the cell doubling time of many cell types. The experimental results clearly show the highly heterogeneous nature of single-cell EV secretion and suggest that cell division facilitates EV secretion, showing the usefulness of this platform for discovering EV regulation machinery.