Unveiling the Hidden Messengers: A Breakthrough Study on Extracellular Vesicles in Type 1 Diabetes


In a recent groundbreaking publication in the peer-reviewed journal Scientific Data, Sasanka Ramanadham, Ph.D., and his team of researchers have shed light on the intricate world of extracellular vesicles (EVs) and their potential role in the development of Type 1 diabetes (T1D). As a professor in the UAB Department of Cell, Developmental and Integrative Biology and a senior scientist in the Comprehensive Diabetes Center, Ramanadham is at the forefront of T1D research.

Understanding the Significance of Extracellular Vesicles

Extracellular vesicles, as defined by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), are cell-derived membrane-surrounded vesicles that carry bioactive molecules, facilitating communication between cells. In the context of T1D, where the pancreas struggles to regulate blood sugar due to malfunctioning or destroyed pancreatic beta cells, studying the cargo carried by EVs becomes crucial. These vesicles play a multifaceted role, serving as potential biomarkers and key players in cell-to-cell communication, influencing processes such as apoptosis or programmed cell death.

The Quest for Biomarkers and Mechanistic Insights

The focus of Ramanadham’s research lies in uncovering the roles of cargo carried in EVs and their potential as biomarkers for T1D. The team conducted a comprehensive analysis of over 1,500 EV proteins, aiming to unravel their significance in T1D development. The findings of the study have far-reaching implications for diabetes researchers worldwide.

Proteomics meta-analysis of plasma extracellular vesicles

Fig. 1

(a) Approaches: proteomics data from plasma EVs purified with a variety of methods were downloaded from ProteomeXchange, processed with MaxQuant and submitted to clustering analysis. Abbreviations: C – centrifugation, CUC – cushion ultracentrifugation, DGUC – density gradient ultracentrifugation, DUC – dilution followed by ultracentrifugation, PP – polymer-based precipitation, PROSPR – PRotein Organic Solvent PRecipitation, SEC – size-exclusion chromatography, UC – ultracentrifugation. (b) Highest enriched cluster with the top 100 extracellular vesicle proteins from Vesiclepedia when testing different numbers of clusters. P-values were calculated by Fisher’s exact test based on the distribution of expected vs. detected proteins from the top 100 Vesiclepedia proteins in each cluster. (c) Classical EV markers found in clusters 10 and 11.

Key Findings and Their Implications

The study yielded several critical conclusions. First and foremost, it provides a valuable resource for the scientific community by presenting a list of proteins highly likely to be EV proteins. This list serves as a foundation for prioritizing proteins for mechanistic and biomarker studies related to T1D.

Secondly, the researchers demonstrated the practical application of their findings by validating the Type 1 diabetes biomarker proplatelet basic protein (PPBP) in EVs. This validation revealed that PPBP plays a regulatory role in the apoptosis of beta cells and macrophages. Such insights contribute significantly to our understanding of the molecular mechanisms driving T1D.

Dr. Ramanadham’s Perspective

Expressing his enthusiasm for the study, Dr. Ramanadham emphasized the collaborative effort that led to the identification and categorization of 1,717 proteins into clusters. These clusters provide a deeper understanding of the roles these proteins play in cell-to-cell communication and signaling. Dr. Ramanadham sees this research as a stepping stone that will continue to support diabetes research globally.


The publication by Dr. Sasanka Ramanadham and his team marks a significant milestone in T1D research, offering valuable insights into the roles of EVs in the development of the disease. The identified proteins not only serve as potential biomarkers but also contribute to our understanding of the complex interplay of cellular communication in T1D. As the scientific community continues to build on these findings, the prospects for advancing our knowledge and developing targeted interventions for T1D look promising.

SourceThe University of Alabama at Birmingham

Vallejo MC, Sarkar S, Elliott EC, Henry HR, Powell SM, Diaz Ludovico I, You Y, Huang F, Payne SH, Ramanadham S, Sims EK, Metz TO, Mirmira RG, Nakayasu ES. (2024) A proteomic meta-analysis refinement of plasma extracellular vesicles. Sci Data 10(1):837. [article]

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