Cushioned–Density Gradient Ultracentrifugation (C-DGUC): A Refined and High Performance Method for the Isolation, Characterization, and Use of Exosomes

  • Kang Li
  • David K. Wong
  • King Yeung Hong
  • Robert L. RaffaiEmail author
Part of the Methods in Molecular Biology book series (MIMB, volume 1740)


Exosomes represent one class of extracellular vesicles that are thought to be shed by all cell types. Although the exact nature of exosome biogenesis and function remains incompletely understood, they are increasingly recognized as a source of intercellular communication in health and disease. Recent observations of RNA exchange via donor cell-derived exosomes that exert genetic regulation in recipient cells have led to a boon into exosome research. The excitement and promise of exosomes as a new therapeutic avenue for human pathologies remain limited by challenges associated with their isolation from culture media and biofluids. The introduction of new methodologies to facilitate the isolation of exosomes has simultaneously raised concerns related to the reproducibility of studies describing exosome effector functions. Even high-speed ultracentrifugation, the first and long considered gold standard approach for exosome isolation has recently been noted to be subject to uncontrolled variables that could impact functional readouts of exosome preparations. This chapter describes principles and methods that attempt to overcome such limitations by first concentrating exosomes in a liquid cushion and subsequently resolving them using density gradient ultracentrifugation. Our approach avoids possible complications associated with direct pelleting onto plastic tubes and allows for further purification of exosomes from dense protein aggregates.


Exosomes Density gradient ultracentrifugation Flow cytometry Nanoparticle tracking analysis Iodixanol 



This work was supported by grants from the American Heart Association ( 16GRNT27640007), National Institutes of Health; (5U19CA179512) Extracellular RNA Communication Consortium Common Fund, and HL133575 to (R.L.R.) which was administered by the Northern California Institute for Research and Education. The work was performed at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, San Francisco, CA.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kang Li
    • 1
  • David K. Wong
    • 1
  • King Yeung Hong
    • 1
  • Robert L. Raffai
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of SurgeryUniversity of California & VA Medical CenterSan FranciscoUSA

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