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Circulating microparticles: square the circle

Natasha S Barteneva12*, Elizaveta Fasler-Kan34, Michael Bernimoulin5, Joel NH Stern6, Eugeny D Ponomarev78, Larry Duckett9 and Ivan A Vorobjev10

Author Affiliations

1 Program in Cellular and Molecular Medicine, Boston Children’s Hospital, D-249, 200 Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA 02115, USA

2 Department of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA

3 Institute of Chemistry and Bioanalytics, University of Applied Sciences Northwestern Switzerland (FHNW), Muttenz, Switzerland

4 Department of Biomedicine, University Hospital Basel, Basel, Switzerland

5 Division of Hematology, University Hospital, Geneva, Switzerland

6 Department of Developmental Biology, Harvard School of Dental Medicine, Boston, MA, USA

7 Center for Neurologic Disease, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA

8 Thematic Research Program for Neurodegeneration, Development and Repair, School for Biomedical Sciences, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shatin, NT, Hong Kong

9 BD Biosciences Inc, San Jose, CA, USA

10 A.N. Belozersky Institute for Physico-Chemical Biology and Department of Cell Biology, Biological Faculty, M.V. Lomonosov Moscow State University, Moscow, Russia

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BMC Cell Biology 2013, 14:23  doi:10.1186/1471-2121-14-23

Published: 22 April 2013



The present review summarizes current knowledge about microparticles (MPs) and provides a systematic overview of last 20 years of research on circulating MPs, with particular focus on their clinical relevance.


MPs are a heterogeneous population of cell-derived vesicles, with sizes ranging between 50 and 1000 nm. MPs are capable of transferring peptides, proteins, lipid components, microRNA, mRNA, and DNA from one cell to another without direct cell-to-cell contact. Growing evidence suggests that MPs present in peripheral blood and body fluids contribute to the development and progression of cancer, and are of pathophysiological relevance for autoimmune, inflammatory, infectious, cardiovascular, hematological, and other diseases. MPs have large diagnostic potential as biomarkers; however, due to current technological limitations in purification of MPs and an absence of standardized methods of MP detection, challenges remain in validating the potential of MPs as a non-invasive and early diagnostic platform.


Improvements in the effective deciphering of MP molecular signatures will be critical not only for diagnostics, but also for the evaluation of treatment regimens and predicting disease outcomes.

Circulating; Microparticles; Exosomes; Microvesicles; Disease; Diagnostics; Therapy