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Diabetes Metab Syndr Obes. 2012;5:247-82. doi: 10.2147/DMSO.S32923. Epub 2012 Aug 7.

Microvesicles/exosomes as potential novel biomarkers of metabolic diseases.

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Department of Biology I, Genetics, Ludwig-Maximilians University Munich, Biocenter, Munich, Germany.


Biomarkers are of tremendous importance for the prediction, diagnosis, and observation of the therapeutic success of common complex multifactorial metabolic diseases, such as type II diabetes and obesity. However, the predictive power of the traditional biomarkers used (eg, plasma metabolites and cytokines, body parameters) is apparently not sufficient for reliable monitoring of stage-dependent pathogenesis starting with the healthy state via its initiation and development to the established disease and further progression to late clinical outcomes. Moreover, the elucidation of putative considerable differences in the underlying pathogenetic pathways (eg, related to cellular/tissue origin, epigenetic and environmental effects) within the patient population and, consequently, the differentiation between individual options for disease prevention and therapy - hallmarks of personalized medicine - plays only a minor role in the traditional biomarker concept of metabolic diseases. In contrast, multidimensional and interdependent patterns of genetic, epigenetic, and phenotypic markers presumably will add a novel quality to predictive values, provided they can be followed routinely along the complete individual disease pathway with sufficient precision. These requirements may be fulfilled by small membrane vesicles, which are so-called exosomes and microvesicles (EMVs) that are released via two distinct molecular mechanisms from a wide variety of tissue and blood cells into the circulation in response to normal and stress/pathogenic conditions and are equipped with a multitude of transmembrane, soluble and glycosylphosphatidylinositol-anchored proteins, mRNAs, and microRNAs. Based on the currently available data, EMVs seem to reflect the diverse functional and dysfunctional states of the releasing cells and tissues along the complete individual pathogenetic pathways underlying metabolic diseases. A critical step in further validation of EMVs as biomarkers will rely on the identification of unequivocal correlations between critical disease states and specific EMV signatures, which in future may be determined in rapid and convenient fashion using nanoparticle-driven biosensors.


adipose tissue; epigenetics; glycosylphosphatidylinositol; microRNA; microparticles; type II diabetes

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