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Exosomes in Neurological Disease

Andrew F Hill

 CML – Neurology 2009;25(2):27–32.

Many cell types, including neurons, are known to release small membranous vesicles known as exosomes. In addition to their protein content, these vesicles have recently been shown to contain messenger RNA (mRNA) and micro RNA (miRNA) species. Roles for these vesicles include cell–cell signaling, removal of unwanted proteins, and transfer of pathogens, such as infectious prions, between cells. Prions are the infectious particles that are responsible for the transmission of neurodegenerative diseases such as Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease (CJD) in humans or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in cattle. Exosomes are also involved in the processing of amyloid precursor protein (APP), which is associated with Alzheimer’s disease (AD). As exosomes can be isolated from circulating fluids such as serum, urine, and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), they provide a potential source of biomarkers for neurological conditions. The current review describes the roles that these vesicles play in neurodegenerative diseases and their potential use in diagnosing brain tumors through analysis of their RNA content.

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