02 April 2024 | Story André Damons | Photo Supplied
Anand Krishnan
Dr Krishnan Anand is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Chemical Pathology, University of the Free State (UFS).

An academic and researcher from the University of the Free State (UFS) is one of just two South African researchers to co-author the latest guidelines for extracellular vesicle (EV) research by the Journal of Extracellular Vesicles.

Being an experienced and well-known researcher in the field of EV research, Dr Anand Krishnan, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Chemical Pathology, UFS Faculty of Health Sciences, proof-checked, validated and approved the guidelines framed by the members of the International Society for Extracellular Vesicles (ISEV). Dr Thabiso Motaung, an academic at the University of Pretoria, was the other South African academic who was part of this project.

Coordinated by the ISEV, the project took three years to complete and involved 1 051 authors from 53 countries. The document titled, Minimal information for studies of extracellular vesicles (MISEV2023): From basic to advanced approaches was published in February this year. It provides researchers with an updated snapshot of available approaches and their advantages and limitations for production, separation, and characterisation of EVs from multiple sources, including cell culture, body fluids, and solid tissues.

Elevating EV research

“Though there are 20 researchers working on EVs in South Africa they invited only two leading researchers from our country to be a part of this project. It makes me feel prestigious to be a member in this international society for extracellular vesicles and proud to be representing South Africa on this international platform,” says Dr Krishnan on his inclusion in this project.

According to him, the purpose of this publication is to elevate EV research to the next level and to propose common guidelines to be followed in EV research worldwide. “Leading researchers in extracellular vesicles all over the world contribute their knowledge and understanding to develop these guidelines framed by the International Society for Extracellular Vesicles.”

Guidelines are necessary to advance the field

EVs are small membrane-bound particles released by cells into the extracellular surroundings. They have important functions in cell-to-cell communication by moving proteins, lipids, and nucleic acids between cells. EVs in biomedical research have attracted a lot of attention because of their possible uses in diagnostics, treatment, and comprehension of different physiological and pathological processes.

“Research on extracellular vesicles covers a variety of studies focused on understanding their formation, makeup, purposes, and contributions to both well-being and illness. Researchers study EVs in different fields like cancer biology, immunology, neuroscience, and regenerative medicine. They use various methods like isolating techniques, characterisation assays, and functional studies to investigate the characteristics and functions of EVs.

“A guideline publication is necessary in EV research to advance the field through promoting standardisation, quality control, reproducibility, and scientific rigour. This will ultimately improve our understanding of EV biology and aid in their translation into clinical applications,” explains Dr Krishnan.

His passion lies in nanoscience with a focus on translational research. His interdisciplinary work integrates clinical chemistry, medical biochemistry, bioinformatics, and nanobiotechnology, producing results and literature of international quality and standard. He started working with EVs in 2018 and leads the Precision Medicine and Integrative Nano Diagnostics (P-MIND) research group at the UFS. They are currently engaged in studying the biological functions of EVs in cellular studies conducted under physiological conditions, biomarker discovery through EVs derived from liquid biopsies, and the role of circulating biomarkers in disease development.

Better understanding the formation of EVs

“The goal of such study is to better understand the formation of EVs by investigating how they invade cellular membranes to create spherical nano-shaped biomaterials from nearly all cell types. The molecular cargo of these EVs includes fragmented DNA, snRNAs, proteins, lipids, and other materials. The last two decades have seen tremendous advances in several medical research areas, including biomarkers, medication administration, and diagnostics.

“EVs are a promising biomarker for extracellular communication in the field of pathophysiology. They also play a major role in biomarker discovery for clinical diagnostics. Additionally, EVs themselves may be used as potential drug carriers for molecular targets and have a direct impact on the RNA splicing mechanism,” says Dr Krishnan.

His team has developed acellular EV products, EV-mediated target delivery, as well as methods for EV isolation and characterisation, and biomarker research.  

“The ISEV community took the time and effort over three years to create these guidelines in order to create a pathway to work with EVs. Anyone in the research community in Africa can reach out to the working P-MIND research group at the Department of Chemical Pathology at the UFS School of Pathology to learn more about and support this collaboration so as to reinforce the crucial role of EV research in shaping the scientific landscape in Africa.”

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