Extracellular vesicles (EVs) are a heterogenous population of vesicles originate from cells. EVs are found in different biofluids and carry different macromolecules, including proteins, lipids, and nucleic acids, providing a snap shot of the parental cells at the time of release. EVs have the ability to transfer molecular cargoes to other cells and can initiate different physiological and pathological processes. Mounting lines of evidence demonstrated that EVs' cargo and machinery is affected in disease states, positioning EVs as potential sources for the discovery of novel biomarkers.
In this review, we demonstrate a conceptual overview of the EV field with particular focus on their nucleic acid cargoes. Current knowledge of EV subtypes, nucleic acid cargo and pathophysiological roles are outlined, with emphasis placed on advantages against competing analytes. We review the utility of EVs and their nucleic acid cargoes as biomarkers and critically assess the newly available advances in the field of EV biomarkers and high throughput technologies. Challenges to achieving the diagnostic potential of EVs, including sample handling, EV isolation, methodological considerations, and bioassay reproducibility are discussed. Future implementation of ‘omics-based technologies and integration of systems biology approaches for the development of EV-based biomarkers and personalized medicine are also considered.