Biological reference materials for extracellular vesicle studies

Peer-reviewed article
S. Valkonen, E. van der Pol, A.N. Böing, Y. Yuana, M. Yliperttula, R. Nieuwland, S. Laitinen, P.R.M. Siljander
Accepted September 6, 2016
Eur. J. Pharm. Sci.
Valkonen 2016 Eur.J.Pharm.Sci. Biological reference materials.pdf (1,329 kB)
Valkonen 2016 Eur.J.Pharm.Sci. Biological reference materials Appendix 1.pdf (211 kB)


Extracellular vesicles (EVs) mediate normal physiological homeostasis and pathological processes by facilitating intercellular communication. Research of EVs in basic science and clinical settings requires both methodological standardization and development of reference materials (RM). Here, we show insights and results of biological RM development for EV studies. We used a three-step approach to find and develop a biological RM. First, a literature search was done to find candidates for biological RMs. Second, a questionnaire was sent to EV researchers querying the preferences for RM and their use. Third, a biological RM was selected, developed, characterized, and evaluated.

The responses to the survey demonstrated a clear and recognized need for RM optimized for the calibration of EV measurements. Based on the literature, naturally occurring and produced biological RM, such as virus particles and liposomes, were proposed as RM. However, none of these candidate RMs have properties completely matching those of EVs, such as size and refractive index distribution. Therefore, we evaluated the use of nanoerythrosomes (NanoE), vesicles produced from erythrocytes, as a potential biological RM. The strength of NanoE is their resemblance to EVs. Compared to the erythrocyte-derived EVs (eryEVs), NanoE have similar morphology, a similar refractive index (1.37), larger diameter (70% of the NanoE are over 200 nm), and increased positive staining for CD235a and lipids (Di-8-ANEPPS) (58% and 67% in NanoE vs. 21% and 45% in eryEVs, respectively).

Altogether, our results highlight the general need to develop and validate new RM with similar physical and biochemical properties as EVs to standardize EV measurements between instruments and laboratories.