Modern Techniques for the Isolation of Extracellular Vesicles and Viruses

  • Ryan P. McNamara
  • Dirk P. DittmerEmail author
Invited Review


Extracellular signaling is pivotal to maintain organismal homeostasis. A quickly emerging field of interest within extracellular signaling is the study of extracellular vesicles (EV), which act as messaging vehicles for nucleic acids, proteins, metabolites, lipids, etc. from donor cells to recipient cells. This transfer of biologically active material within a vesicular body is similar to the infection of a cell through a virus particle, which transfers genetic material from one cell to another to preserve an infection state, and viruses are known to modulate EV. Although considerable heterogeneity exists within EV and viruses, this review focuses on those that are small (< 200 nm in diameter) and of relatively low density (< 1.3 g/mL). A multitude of isolation methods for EV and virus particles exist. In this review, we present an update on methods for their isolation, purification, and phenotypic characterization. We hope that the information we provide will be of use to basic science and clinical investigators, as well as biotechnologists in this emerging field.

Graphical Abstract


Extracellular vesicles Viruses Exosomes Microvesicles 



This work was supported by Public Health Service Grant 1R01DA040394 to Dirk Dittmer and a Translational Fellow Award of the AIDS Malignancy Consortium (AMC) to Ryan McNamara as part of the 5UM1CA121947-10.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, Department of Microbiology and ImmunologyThe University of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillUSA

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