The diagnosis and management of graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) have remained important challenges in allogeneic stem cell transplantation (allo-SCT). Novel diagnostic methods and therapeutic interventions are needed to further improve on patient outcomes. Extracellular vesicles (EV) are microvesicles formed by the inversion of the phospholipid bilayer of different cellular subtypes and have been described as biomarkers of cellular damage, activation, and intercellular signaling in numerous clinical scenarios.
Researchers from Hospital Sirio Libanes, Brazil studied the association between the levels of EV and the incidence of acute GVHD (aGVHD). Forty patients undergoing allo-SCT for hematological malignancies had their plasma collected at neutrophil engraftment. Using flow cytometry combined with fluorescent beads, the total circulating EV count (TEV) was established with annexin V positivity; CD61 positivity was used for platelet-derived EV (PEV), and CD235 positivity, for erythrocyte-derived EV (EryEV). TEV counts greater than 516/μL were associated with a higher cumulative incidence (CI) of grade II to IV aGVHD (54% vs. 21%; p = 0.02), as were EryEV counts above 357 /μL (CI of aGVHD: 59% vs. 26%; p = 0.04). In patients who are exposed to reduced intensity conditioning (RIC), stronger associations of both high TEV and EryEV counts with aGVHD were observed (77% vs. 22%; p = 0.003 and 89% vs. 27%; p = 0.002, respectively). PEV levels were not associated with the risk of aGVHD. These data suggest that the measurement of cell-derived EV at engraftment can be used as a preemptive biomarker for acute GVHD.
Cumulative incidence of aGVHD Patients
high TEV count vs. low TEV count (a) and high EryEV count vs. low EryEV count (b) at engraftment