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Small extracellular vesicles (sEVs) generated from the endolysosomal system, often referred to as exosomes, have attracted interest as a suitable biomarker for cancer diagnostics, as they carry valuable biological information and reflect their cells of origin. Herein, we propose a simple and inexpensive electrical method for label-free detection and profiling of sEVs in the size range of exosomes. The detection method is based on the electrokinetic principle, where the change in the streaming current is monitored as the surface markers of the sEVs interact with the affinity reagents immobilized on the inner surface of a silica microcapillary. As a proof-of-concept, we detected sEVs derived from the non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) cell line H1975 for a set of representative surface markers, such as epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), CD9, and CD63. The detection sensitivity was estimated to be ∼175000 sEVs, which represents a sensor surface coverage of only 0.04%. We further validated the ability of the sensor to measure the expression level of a membrane protein by using sEVs displaying artificially altered expressions of EGFR and CD63, which were derived from NSCLC and human embryonic kidney (HEK) 293T cells, respectively. The analysis revealed that the changes in EGFR and CD63 expressions in sEVs can be detected with a sensitivity in the order of 10% and 3%, respectively, of their parental cell expressions. The method can be easily parallelized and combined with existing microfluidic-based EV isolation technologies, allowing for rapid detection and monitoring of sEVs for cancer diagnosis.

Original publication




Journal article


ACS Sens

Publication Date





1399 - 1408


biosensor, cancer, electrokinetic effect, extracellular vesicles, label-free, protein profiling, Biomarkers, Cell Line, Tumor, Electric Conductivity, ErbB Receptors, Extracellular Vesicles, HEK293 Cells, Humans, Tetraspanin 30