The man who coined the name “exosomes”

While the approved term to describe the membrane-bound particles released from cells is now “extracellular vesicles,” there is no doubt that the trivial term “exosomes” is now firmly embedded into the scientific lexicon. Recently, a history of extracellular vesicle research was published (Couch et al., 2021). In it, a passing mention is made to the group working under Dr. Eberhard Trams in the Laboratory of Developmental and Metabolic Neurology in NINCDS, NIH, Bethesda, USA. In a single sentence, it states that Trams et al. in 1981 originally coined the term “exosome” to describe the extracellular vesicles (EVs) shed from the surface of the cell (Trams et al., 1981). As two of the individuals who worked in Trams’ lab in the early 1980s, we would like to explain why this innovative scientist should receive greater recognition—he was one of the first scientists to describe an isolation protocol and then conduct an initial characterization of these extracellular vesicles. The title of the 1981 article is “Exfoliation of membrane ectoenzymes in the form of micro-vesicles” “but concludes with the words.…such plasma membrane-derived vesicles could be referred to generically as exosomes” We will describe the tragic circumstances that cut short his pioneering research into extracellular vesicles. To do that we need to go back in time to describe the work being done in that laboratory from about 1979 until 1982…

MacDonald E, Salem N Jr. (2023) Dr. Eberhard Trams-The man who coined the name “exosomes”-A prescient but largely forgotten pioneer. J Extracell Vesicles 12(10):e12370. [article]

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