Microfluidics for exosome isolation and analysis: enabling liquid biopsy for personalized medicine
Exosomes, the smallest sized extracellular vesicles (∽30–150 nm) packaged with lipids, proteins, functional messenger RNAs and microRNAs, and double-stranded DNA from their cells of origin, have emerged as key players in intercellular communication. Their presence in bodily fluids, where they protect their cargo from degradation, makes them attractive candidates for clinical application as innovative diagnostic and therapeutic tools. But routine isolation and analysis of high purity exosomes in clinical settings is challenging, with conventional methods facing a number of drawbacks including low yield and/or purity, long processing times, high cost, and difficulties in standardization. Here we review a promising solution, microfluidic-based technologies that have incorporated a host of separation and sensing capabilities for exosome isolation, detection, and analysis, with emphasis on point-of-care and clinical applications. These new capabilities promise to advance fundamental research while paving the way toward routine exosome-based liquid biopsy for personalized medicine.