Techniques to improve detection and analysis of extracellular vesicles using flow cytometry

Heather C. Inglis, Ali Danesh, Avani Shah, Jacques Lacroix, Philip C. Spinella, Philip J. Norris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations


Extracellular vesicles (EVs) range in size from 50 nm to 1 μm. Flow cytometry (FCM) is the most commonly used method for analyzing EVs; however, accurate characterization of EVs remains challenging due to their small size and lack of discrete positive populations. Here we report the use of optimization techniques that are especially well-suited for analyzing EVs from a high volume of clinical samples. Utilizing a two pronged approach that included 1) pre-filtration of antibodies to remove aggregates, followed by 2) detergent lysis of a replicate sample to account for remaining false positive events, we were able to effectively limit false positive non-EV events. In addition, we show that lysed samples are a useful alternative to isotypes for setting gates to exclude background fluorescence. To reduce background, we developed an approach using filters to "wash" samples post-staining thus providing a faster alternative to ultracentrifugation and sucrose gradient fractionation. In conclusion, use of these optimized techniques enhances the accuracy and efficiency of EV detection using FCM.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1052-1063
Number of pages12
JournalCytometry Part A
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2015


  • Antibody aggregates
  • Extracellular vesicles
  • Filtration
  • Flow cytometry
  • Microparticles


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