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Program Snapshot

Once thought to exist only within cells, RNA is now known to be exported from cells and play a role in newly discovered mechanisms of cell-to-cell communication. The Common Fund’s Extracellular RNA Communication (ERC) program aims to discover fundamental biological principles about the mechanisms of extracellular RNA (exRNA) generation, secretion, and transport; to identify and develop a catalogue of exRNA in normal human body fluids; and to investigate the potential for using exRNAs as therapeutic molecules or biomarkers of disease.

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Program Highlights

Combining Anti-RNA Treatments with Chemotherapy May Offer Benefits for Lung Cancer Patients

Researchers from the Common Fund’s Extracellular RNA Communication program have begun to examine the role extracellular RNAs may play in chemotherapy resistance.

Read more about how researchers are providing insights into chemotherapy resistance.

Circular RNAs May Offer Early Signs of Colorectal Cancer

Circular RNAs have often been thought to be mistakes created by normal biological processes and with no known function.

Read more about how researchers are discovering more about these RNAs and what they might tell us about Colorectal cancers.

Complex and Diverse RNA Found in Human Plasma

Until recently, most studies of extracellular RNA (exRNA) in human body fluids have investigated samples from only a handful of individuals and focused mainly on a single type of exRNA.

Read more about new RNA found in human plasma.

Uncovering Key Pathways and Players in Extracellular RNA Sorting

RNA carried in Extracellular Vehicles (EVs) and transported to neighboring or distant cells in the body can influence gene expression and other cellular process. However, not much is known about the mechanisms involved in the underlying processes.

Read more about newly implicated processes here.

Noninvasive Therapeutic Agents for Brain Cancers Show Promise in Mouse Studies

Gaining access to the brain is a major obstacle for central nervous system drug development and delivery and non-invasive approaches are currently greatly needed. Read more about how research supported by the Extracellular RNA Communication Program is laying the foundation for the possibility of using extracellular RNAs (exRNAs) to treat brain cancers and other diseases.

Read about this promising study.

Levels of microRNAs in the Blood can be Used to Monitor Development of Alcoholic Hepatitis

Research from the NIH Common Fund’s Extracellular RNA Communication program has discovered how levels of particular extracellular microRNAs in the blood can indicate the presence of liver damage and inflammation associated with chronic alcohol abuse.

Read about microRNAs and liver disease.

Glioblastoma Cells use Extracellular RNA to Influence Normal Cells in the Brain

Glioblastomas, the most common type of brain tumor, are particularly aggressive and difficult to treat. Extracellular RNA Communication researchers are studying how the tumor cells can manipulate the healthy cells around them by using extracellular RNA (exRNA).

Read about exRNA released by glioblastomas.  

NIH Consortium is Advancing our Understanding of Extracellular RNA Communication

The Common Fund-supported Extracellular RNA Communication Consortium (ERCC) has published six manuscripts in a recent special issue of the Journal of Extracellular Vesicles, providing the scientific community with information about the expected outcomes of this new scientific program and detailing major progress to date.

Read about the ERCC papers.

Insights into Potential exRNA Biomarkers for Breast Cancer

Researchers supported by the Common Fund's Extracellular RNA Communication program are gaining new insight into the potential for some types of extracellular RNA called microRNA (miRNA) to influence cancer progression.

Read about exRNAs as biomarkers.


The International Society for Extracellular Vesicles has published a position paper on "Obstacles and opportunities in the functional analysis of extracellular vesicle RNA."
To read the paper click here.

The International Society for Extracellular Vesicles launched a massive open online course on extracellular vesicles.
To learn more click here.

The ExRNA Communication program has public resource catalog available to share with the wider research community that lists reagents generated by the consortium.
To learn more click here.

New Award Announcement!

The ExRNA Communication program has begun a second phase of awards exploring the use of extracellular RNAs as biomarkers for disease or potential therapeutics. The first phase of these awards focused on discovery and feasibility, while the second phase is focusing on testing and validation.

To learn more about these awards, visit our Funded Research page or the web announcement from the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS).




ExRNA Research Portal Launched!

The ExRNA Communication Consortium has launched the ExRNA Research Portal. This website contains information about the program, funded research, publications, resources, upcoming events, and a blog about the latest advances in exRNA research. Visit this site at exrna.org, and be sure to check back often as new content is added!



Videos on Extracellular RNA

Learn more about Unlocking the Mysteries of Extracellular RNA Communication here

Watch a mini documentary series on Exosomes by Life TechnologiesCorp, featuring several ExRNA Communication grantees and Working Group members!

Part 1: What is an Exosome?
Part 2: The History and Promise of Exosomes
Part 3: Exosomes in Cancer Research
Part 4: Curiosity and a Passion for Science
Part 5: Collaboration - The Key to Scientific Success
Part 6: Exosomes - The Next Small Thing

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