New labeling approach enables examination of packages cells send out to gain insight about health
Our cells are constantly communicating, and scientists have developed an efficient way to find out what messages they are sending in protein-packed biological suitcases called exosomes.
These spherical exosomes, which reside in the internal membrane of a cell but will eventually head out to get inside another cell, transport large molecules like proteins, a basic building block in the body and drivers of biological activity, and RNA, which produces protein.
“This is an ongoing process,” says Dr. Sang-Ho Kwon, cell biologist in the Department of Cellular Biology and Anatomy at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University, and there is increasing evidence that it occurs both in states of health and disease.
“We are trying to figure out this puzzle of what exosomes are doing in different scenarios,” says Kwon. He is corresponding author of a study in the Journal of Extracellular Vesicles detailing a labeling technique he and his research team have developed to analyze the contents of exosomes from any specific cell type to better understand their role in wellbeing and illness.
“Their contents can help tell us what our cells are telling each other,” Kwon says, and likely provide early clues that we are getting sick and help us better understand how we get sick.
It’s thought that cargo gets loaded early in the formation of exosomes by their precursor endosomes, near the cell membrane, which work much like filling the mail truck at the post office before it heads out on its route. Exosomes will stay there until released by the cell to travel to other cells.
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