Research Snapshot: Researchers develop new method for exosome-based cancer biomarker discovery

A group of researchers led by UF Health Cancer Center member Mei He, Ph.D., has developed a new exosome isolation approach that could have important implications for discovering and detecting cancer biomarkers. The group, which involved researchers from the University of Kansas, used tissue from patients with bladder cancer for the study, which was published in July in the journal Communications Biology.

Mei He, Ph.D., and doctoral student Zachary Greenberg in the lab.

Extracellular vesicles, particularly nano-sized small extracellular vesicle called exosomes, have been increasingly studied as sources for biomarkers used in cancer diagnosis, immunotherapy, and drug target and delivery. But a standardized purification method for processing bodily fluids that contain various types of extracellular vesicles has been lacking, the researchers said, and it has remained challenging to map the cellular information to specific diseases.

The team introduced a novel approach that uses 3D-structured nanographene immunomagnetic particles (NanoPoms). These particles have unique flower pom-poms morphology and photo-click chemistry that enable researchers to capture and release for preparing and enriching specific exosome subtypes from almost all kinds of biological fluids, including human blood, urine, cow’s milk and cell culture medium. This method offers greater sensitivity and specificity than other isolation approaches, which enables a non-invasive, highly sensitive way to diagnose bladder cancer.

“We look forward to the translation of this highly specific exosome-based approach for facilitating cancer diagnosis and treatment clinically,” He said.

In addition to He, assistant professor in the department of pharmaceutics in the College of Pharmacy, other UF contributors were Zachary Greenberg, a doctoral student in He’s laboratory, and Yong Zeng, Ph.D., a Cancer Center member and associate professor in the department of chemistry in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.


The authors acknowledged the support of The University of Kansas Cancer Center’s Biospecimen Repository Core Facility staff, funded in part by the National Cancer Institute Cancer Center Support Grant P30 CA168524 (A.K.G.). The work was supported by the NIH NIGMS MIRA award 1R35GM133794 to MH and the NIH NCI R43 CA221536-01A1 to MH and Clara Biotech Inc.

NCI Cancer Center badge