The Extracellular RNA Communication (ERC) program explores basic principles of extracellular RNA (exRNA) biology and is working to accelerate development of exRNAs as therapeutics and diagnostics. Once thought to exist only within cells, in a paradigm shift for science, RNA is now known to be exported from cells as “extracellular RNA” and to play a role in mechanisms of cell-to-cell communication.
Since its founding, the program established data standards, a data portal, and tools and reagents available to the scientific community. The program cataloged exRNA molecules found in human biofluids like plasma, saliva, and urine from over 2000 donors. It also identified potential exRNA biomarkers for nearly 30 diseases, including cardiovascular disease, pregnancy complications, glaucoma, diabetes, and multiple types of cancer.
The program was approved for continuation in 2019 and will focus on tool and technology development to catalyze the field of extracellular RNA communication further. Specifically, the program will develop separation approaches to rapidly sort complex biofluids into different populations, as well as develop techniques to sort and isolate individual members of a class of exRNA carriers called extracellular vesicles (EVs). Program researchers will characterize the exRNA found in those EV subpopulations based on cell of origin and intended target cell.
This page last reviewed on December 3, 2019