Extracellular vesicles (EVs) are involved in many physiological and pathological processes, such as immune response and cancer metastasis, and they have a huge potential to be important biomedical tools for diagnostic and treatment purposes. Analyzing these vesicles can, however, be methodologically challenging. To help researchers working in this field and to promote EV research at the University of Helsinki, a core unit providing EV infrastructure and services has just been established.

The EV core facility is a collaborative project of three organizational units of the University of Helsinki, located on two different campuses. Researchers from the Department of Biosciences (the Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences), the Faculty of Pharmacy and the Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland (FIMM) are working together to provide infrastructure and state-of-the-art services for the research community and companies.

Both healthy and abnormal cells release many different types of EVs that vary in size. The current expertise of the core unit encompasses a wide range of different techniques from isolation and quantification to subpopulation analysis of these heterogeneous vesicles. The most frequently asked services so far are EV quantification by nanoparticle tracking analysis and visualization with the electron microscope. In addition to these and other characterization methods, the core provides help with the specific protocols for processing different EV sample materials (e.g. body fluids or cell cultures) to for example omics, EV production in cell lines and data analysis. The services are available for the whole research community as well as companies working in the EV field.

– Several studies have shown that EVs enrich some components from the parental cells and both the composition and secretion of EVs change in many diseases. Since EVs can be found in many easily accessible body fluids, such as urine and blood, isolated EVs can be of great diagnostic use and are thus attracting considerable interest in the scientific community, explains Dr. Maija Puhka from FIMM.

She and Dr. Pia Siljander, the leader of the Extracellular Vesicle group in Viikki campus, are the co-founders of the EV core.

­– We have just began to understand the complexity, heterogeneity and functions of the EVs in health and disease. There are still an overwhelming number of mysteries to explore and we want to help scientists to do that, Pia Siljander adds.

­– In addition, methodological standardization and the reference materials need to be developed, if EVs are going to be used, for example in therapeutics.

The Extracellular Vesicle group focuses on understanding how EV-signals from varying cellular sources mediate and regulate cell behavior and cross-talk and how they could be utilized in diagnostics or therapeutics. The group provides expertise in different isolation techniques as well as molecular and functional profiling. EV research at FIMM focuses on liquid biopsy disease biomarkers, utilizing national sample collections, such as Helsinki Urological Biobank collection. In the EV core, FIMM is specialized in electron microscopy based EV-methods and nucleic acid analysis.

Together, the EV core members have further developed the EV-know-how in a research consortia managed by the SalWe Ltd mixing academia and companies, including the Finnish Red Cross Blood Service, Orion Pharma and Medix Biochemica.  One of the work packages of this Get it done program, “Extracellular vesicles in health and disease”, concentrated on EVs.

More information:

E-mail: ev-core@helsinki.fi

Pia Siljander: +358 2941 590 23

Maija Puhka: +358 400 826 846

EV core online brochure