Exosomes possess great potential as cancer biomarkers in personalized medicine due to their easy accessibility and capability of representing their parental cells. To boost the translational process of exosomes in diagnostics, the development of novel and effective strategies for their label-free and automated characterization is highly desirable. In this context, Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR) has great potential as it provides direct access to specific biomolecular bands that give compositional information on exosomes in terms of their protein, lipid and genetic content.
Researchers from the Università Cattolica Del Sacro Cuore used FTIR spectroscopy in the mid-Infrared (mid-IR) range to study exosomes released from human colorectal adenocarcinoma HT-29 cancer cells cultured in different media. To this purpose, cells were studied in well-fed condition of growth, with 10% of exosome-depleted FBS (EVd-FBS), and under serum starvation with 0.5% EVd-FBS. Thier data show the presence of statistically significant differences in the shape of the Amide I and II bands in the two conditions. Based on these differences, the researchers showed the possibility to automatically classify cancer cell-derived exosomes using Principal Component Analysis combined with Linear Discriminant Analysis (PCA-LDA); they tested the effectiveness of the classifier with a cross-validation approach, obtaining very high accuracy, precision, and recall. Aside from classification purposes, these FTIR data provide hints on the underlying cellular mechanisms responsible for the compositional differences in exosomes, suggesting a possible role of starvation-induced autophagy.