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Charlotte Lawson, Jose M Vicencio, Derek M Yellon and Sean M Davidson

The past decade has witnessed an exponential increase in the number of publications referring to extracellular vesicles (EVs). For many years considered to be extracellular debris, EVs are now seen as novel mediators of endocrine signalling via cell-to-cell communication. With the capability of transferring proteins and nucleic acids from one cell to another, they have become an attractive focus of research for different pathological settings and are now regarded as both mediators and biomarkers of disease including cardio-metabolic disease. They also offer therapeutic potential as signalling agents capable of targeting tissues or cells with specific peptides or miRNAs. In this review, we focus on the role that microvesicles (MVs) and exosomes, the two most studied classes of EV, have in diabetes, cardiovascular disease, endothelial dysfunction, coagulopathies, and polycystic ovary syndrome. We also provide an overview of current developments in MV/exosome isolation techniques from plasma and other fluids, comparing different available commercial and non-commercial methods. We describe different techniques for their optical/biochemical characterization and quantitation. We also review the signalling pathways that exosomes and MVs activate in target cells and provide some insight into their use as biomarkers or potential therapeutic agents. In summary, we give an updated focus on the role that these exciting novel nanoparticles offer for the endocrine community.