Exosomes are one class of extracellular vesicles (30-150 nm diameter) that are secreted by cells. These small vesicles hold a great deal of promise in disease diagnostics, as they display the same protein biomarkers as their originating cell. On a cellular level, exosomes are attributed to playing a key role in intercellular communication, and may eventually be exploited for targeted drug delivery. In order for exosomes to become useful in disease diagnostics, and as burgeoning drug delivery platforms, they must be isolated efficiently and effectively without compromising their structure. Plasma from peripheral blood is an excellent source of exosomes, as it is easily collected and the process does not normally cause undue discomfort to the patient. Unfortunately, blood plasma content is complex, containing abundant amounts of soluble proteins and aggregates, making exosomes extremely difficult to isolate in high purity from plasma. Most current exosome isolation methods have practical challenges including being too time-consuming and labor intensive, destructive to the exosomes, or too costly for use in clinical settings.
Clemson University researchers examined the use of poly(ethylene terephthalate) (PET) capillary-channeled polymer (C-CP) fibers in a hydrophobic interaction chromatography (HIC) protocol to isolate exosomes from a human plasma sample. Initial results demonstrate the ability to isolate exosomes with comparable yields and size distributions and on a much faster time scale when compared to traditional isolation methods, while also alleviating concomitant proteins and other impurities. As a demonstration of the potential quantitative utility of the approach, a linear response (particles injected on-column vs peak area) using a commercial exosome standard was established using a standard UV absorbance detector. Based on the calibration function, the concentration of the original human plasma sample was determined and subsequently confirmed by NTA measurement. The potential for scalable separations covering sub-milliliter spin-down solid phase extraction tips to the preparative scale is anticipated.