Extracellular vesicles (EVs) have recently gained growing interest for their diagnostic and therapeutic potential. Despite this, few protocols have been reported for the isolation of EVs with preserved biological function. Most EV purification methods include a precipitation step that results in aggregation of vesicles and most available techniques do not efficiently separate the various types of EVs such as exosomes and ectosomes, which are involved in distinct biological processes. For this reason, we developed a new two-step fast performance liquid chromatography (FPLC) protocol for purification of large numbers of EVs. The method comprises size exclusion chromatography followed by immobilized metal affinity chromatography, which is enabled by expression of poly-histidine tagged folate receptor α in the parental cells. Characterisation and comparison of the EVs obtained by this method to EVs purified by differential centrifugation, currently the most common method to isolate EVs, demonstrated higher purity and more selective enrichment of exosomes in EV preparations using our FPLC method, as assessed by comparison of marker proteins and density distribution. Our studies reveal new possibilities for the isolation of defined subpopulations of EVs with preserved biological function that can easily be upscaled for production of larger amounts of EVs.
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