The power of imaging to understand extracellular vesicle biology in vivo.
Verweij FJ., Balaj L., Boulanger CM., Carter DRF., Compeer EB., D'Angelo G., El Andaloussi S., Goetz JG., Gross JC., Hyenne V., Krämer-Albers E-M., Lai CP., Loyer X., Marki A., Momma S., Nolte-'t Hoen ENM., Pegtel DM., Peinado H., Raposo G., Rilla K., Tahara H., Théry C., van Royen ME., Vandenbroucke RE., Wehman AM., Witwer K., Wu Z., Wubbolts R., van Niel G.
Extracellular vesicles (EVs) are nano-sized lipid bilayer vesicles released by virtually every cell type. EVs have diverse biological activities, ranging from roles in development and homeostasis to cancer progression, which has spurred the development of EVs as disease biomarkers and drug nanovehicles. Owing to the small size of EVs, however, most studies have relied on isolation and biochemical analysis of bulk EVs separated from biofluids. Although informative, these approaches do not capture the dynamics of EV release, biodistribution, and other contributions to pathophysiology. Recent advances in live and high-resolution microscopy techniques, combined with innovative EV labeling strategies and reporter systems, provide new tools to study EVs in vivo in their physiological environment and at the single-vesicle level. Here we critically review the latest advances and challenges in EV imaging, and identify urgent, outstanding questions in our quest to unravel EV biology and therapeutic applications.