Cellular Uptake of Exosomes Appears Size-Dependent; Smaller Exosomes Taken Up More Quickly by Target Cells

Size really does matter when it comes to the mechanisms that cells use to communicate with each other, according to pioneering new nanobiotechnology research that has important implications for the diagnosis and treatment of disease. An international team of scientists has made major strides in understanding “exosomes”– tiny biological structures (or ‘vesicles’) that are believed to be used, at least in part, by cells in the body to transfer information. The researchers believe the findings could be significant for several fields of medical science, from personalizing medical treatments to better understanding the growth and spread of cancerous tumors. Exosomes can be packed with proteins and RNA. They can be generated by one cell, taken up by another, and then trigger a specific response in the second cell. To date, scientific research has focused on the content of exosomes, but a new study led by scientists at the University of Lincoln, UK, focused instead on the size of exosomes and how this affects the way they work. Led by Dr. Enrico Ferrari, a specialist in nanobiotechnology, the research team discovered that the smaller the exosomes are, the easier it is for target cells to pick them up. This makes communication between cells much faster. The study examined exosomes taken from a patient with a high-grade glioma (rapidly growing brain tumor). The researchers had previously found that some stem cells within the patient’s brain were producing exosomes that were responsible for supporting cancer cells and making them more aggressive. The scientists’ latest work suggests that the level of aggression in a tumor could be determined by the size of the exosomes produced by the cancerous cells – for example the smaller the exosomes, the faster the cells can communicate and reproduce, and the more quickly the cancer develops.
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