Extracellular Vesicles in Cardiovascular Disease: Potential Applications in Diagnosis, Prognosis, and Epidemiology

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Extracellular vesicles originate from diverse subcellular compartments and are released in the extracellular space. By transferring their cargoes into target cells and tissues, they now emerge as novel regulators of intercellular communication between adjacent and remote cells. Because vesicle composition and biological content are specific signatures of cellular activation and injury, their potential as diagnostic and prognostic biomarkers has raised significant interest in cardiovascular diseases. Characterization of circulating vesicles- or nonvesicles-bound nucleic acids represents a valuable tool for diagnosing and monitoring cardiovascular diseases, recently referred to as a liquid biopsy. Circulating extracellular vesicles offer a noninvasive and almost continuous access to circulating information on the disease state in epidemiological investigations. Finally, genetic engineering and cell-specific application of extracellular vesicles could display a novel therapeutic option for the treatment of cardiovascular diseases. In this review, we summarize the current knowledge about extracellular vesicles as diagnostic and prognostic biomarkers, as well as their potential applications for longitudinal epidemiological studies in cardiovascular diseases.

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