Single small extracellular vesicle (sEV) quantification by upconversion nanoparticles


Cancer-derived small extracellular vesicles (sEVs) are potential circulating biomarkers in liquid biopsies. However, their small sizes, low abundance, and heterogeneity in molecular makeups pose major technical challenges for detecting and characterizing them quantitatively. Here, researchers from the University of Technology Sydney demonstrate a single-sEV enumeration platform using lanthanide-doped upconversion nanoparticles (UCNPs). Taking advantage of the unique optical properties of UCNPs and the background-eliminating property of total internal reflection fluorescence (TIRF) imaging technique, a single-sEV assay recorded a limit of detection 1.8 × 106 EVs/mL, which was nearly 3 orders of magnitude lower than the standard enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Its specificity was validated by the difference between EpCAM-positive and EpCAM-negative sEVs. The accuracy of the UCNP-based single-sEV assay was benchmarked with immunomagnetic-beads flow cytometry, showing a high correlation (R2> 0.99). The platform is suitable for evaluating the heterogeneous antigen expression of sEV and can be easily adapted for biomarker discoveries and disease diagnosis.

Huang G, Zhu Y, Wen S, Mei H, Liu Y, Wang D, Maddahfar M, Su QP, Lin G, Chen Y, Jin D. (2022) Single Small Extracellular Vesicle (sEV) Quantification by Upconversion Nanoparticles. Nano Lett [Epub ahead of print]. [abstract]

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