Exosome Tentacles

Unlike the usual smooth, spherical shape of exosomes, glioblastoma-derived exosomes appear to have long nanofilaments protruding from their surfaces.

kerry grens
Kerry Grens

Kerry served as The Scientist’s news director until 2021. Before joining The Scientist in 2013, she was a stringer for Reuters Health, the senior health and science reporter at...

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NEW ANATOMY: Long nanofilaments extend from two glioblastoma-derived exosomes.COURTESY SHIVANI SHARMA


The paper
S. Sharma et al., “Nanofilaments on glioblastoma exosomes revealed by peak force microscopy,” J Royal Soc Interface, doi:10.1098/rsif.2013.1150, 2014.

The approach
Exosomes are ball-shaped, secreted vesicles involved in intercellular chatter, including the delivery of metastatic messages. (See “Exosome Explosion,” The Scientist, July 2011.) Given exosomes’ tiny size—roughly 100 nm in diameter—electron microscopy has limited how much scientists can resolve of their structure, says Shivani Sharma of the University of California, Los Angeles. So she and her colleagues turned to peak force microscopy, a variant of atomic force microscopy, which can “feel” the shape of objects at the nanoscale.

The structure
The team observed filaments, about 10–20 nm wide and up to several microns in length, protruding from glioblastoma-derived exosomes, but not from exosomes of normal human...

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