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J Extracell Vesicles. 2018 Feb 28;7(1):1442088. doi: 10.1080/20013078.2018.1442088. eCollection 2018.

Scalable, cGMP-compatible purification of extracellular vesicles carrying bioactive human heterodimeric IL-15/lactadherin complexes.

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Human Retrovirus Section, Vaccine Branch, Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute at Frederick, Frederick, MD, USA.
Laboratory of Molecular Imaging and Nanomedicine, National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, USA.
Human Retrovirus Pathogenesis Section, Vaccine Branch, Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute at Frederick, Frederick, MD, USA.
Vaccine Branch, Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, MD, USA.


The development of extracellular vesicles (EV) for therapeutic applications is contingent upon the establishment of reproducible, scalable, and high-throughput methods for the production and purification of clinical grade EV. Methods including ultracentrifugation (U/C), ultrafiltration, immunoprecipitation, and size-exclusion chromatography (SEC) have been employed to isolate EV, each facing limitations such as efficiency, particle purity, lengthy processing time, and/or sample volume. We developed a cGMP-compatible method for the scalable production, concentration, and isolation of EV through a strategy involving bioreactor culture, tangential flow filtration (TFF), and preparative SEC. We applied this purification method for the isolation of engineered EV carrying multiple complexes of a novel human immunostimulatory cytokine-fusion protein, heterodimeric IL-15 (hetIL-15)/lactadherin. HEK293 cells stably expressing the fusion cytokine were cultured in a hollow-fibre bioreactor. Conditioned medium was collected and EV were isolated comparing three procedures: U/C, SEC, or TFF + SEC. SEC demonstrated comparable particle recovery, size distribution, and hetIL-15 density as U/C purification. Relative to U/C, SEC preparations achieved a 100-fold reduction in ferritin concentration, a major protein-complex contaminant. Comparative proteomics suggested that SEC additionally decreased the abundance of cytoplasmic proteins not associated with EV. Combination of TFF and SEC allowed for bulk processing of large starting volumes, and resulted in bioactive EV, without significant loss in particle yield or changes in size, morphology, and hetIL-15/lactadherin density. Taken together, the combination of bioreactor culture with TFF + SEC comprises a scalable, efficient method for the production of highly purified, bioactive EV carrying hetIL-15/lactadherin, which may be useful in targeted cancer immunotherapy approaches.


Exosomes; Kenneth W. Witwer, Johns Hopkins University, USA; bioreactor; clinical grade; immunotherapy; interleukin-15; lactadherin; large scale; purification; size-exclusion chromatography; tangential flow filtration

Conflict of interest statement

G.N.P., C.B., and B.K.F. are inventors on US Government-owned patents related to hetIL-15.

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