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Nanoplasmonic Approaches for Sensitive Detection and Molecular Characterization of Extracellular Vesicles


All cells release a multitude of nanoscale extracellular vesicles (nEVs) into circulation, offering immense potential for new diagnostic strategies. Yet, clinical translation for nEVs remains a challenge due to their vast heterogeneity, our insufficient ability to isolate subpopulations, and the low frequency of disease-associated nEVs in biofluids. The growing field of nanoplasmonics is poised to address many of these challenges. Innovative materials engineering approaches based on exploiting nanoplasmonic phenomena, i.e., the unique interaction of light with nanoscale metallic materials, can achieve unrivaled sensitivity, offering real-time analysis and new modes of medical and biological imaging. We begin with an introduction into the basic structure and function of nEVs before critically reviewing recent studies utilizing nanoplasmonic platforms to detect and characterize nEVs. For the major techniques considered, surface plasmon resonance (SPR), localized SPR, and surface enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS), we introduce and summarize the background theory before reviewing the studies applied to nEVs. Along the way, we consider notable aspects, limitations, and considerations needed to apply plasmonic technologies to nEV detection and analysis.

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