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Blood contains a mixture of extracellular vesicles from different cell types, primarily platelets, endothelial cells, leucocytes and erythrocytes. Erythrocytes are the most abundant cell type in blood and could, especially in certain pathologies, represent an important source of vesicles. Since erythrocytes contain the haemoglobin components iron and haem, which are potentially toxic, it is important to investigate the contribution of vesicle-associated haemoglobin to total cell-free haemoglobin levels. To our knowledge, this is the first time that cell-free plasma haemoglobin has been differentiated into vesicle-associated and molecular species. We investigated the contribution of vesicle-associated haemoglobin in residual patient material that was routinely analysed for total cell-free plasma haemoglobin. All patient samples included in the study were haemolytic with total cell-free haemoglobin concentration ranging from 80 to 2500 mg/l. In the majority of the samples, total cell-free haemoglobin concentration was between 100 and 200 mg/l. No haemoglobin could be detected in the vesicle fraction, indicating that the contribution of vesicle-associated haemoglobin to total cell free-haemoglobin levels in plasma is negligible. It is important to investigate whether erythrocyte vesicles are not formed in blood or that their production is not increased during pathologies associated with haemolysis or that the clearance rate of the vesicles surpasses the formation rate.


Karen M K de Vooght, Cedric Lau, Pim P M de Laat, Richard van Wijk, Wouter W van Solinge, Raymond M Schiffelers. Extracellular vesicles in the circulation: are erythrocyte microvesicles a confounder in the plasma haemoglobin assay? Biochemical Society transactions. 2013 Feb 1;41(1):288-92

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PMID: 23356299

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