Microparticles and their Roles in Inflammation: A Review§

Syeda Batool1, Nima Abbasian3, James O. Burton2, 3, Cordula Stover*, 3
1 Department of Cell Physiology and Pharmacology, University of Leicester, University Road, Leicester LE1 9HN, UK
2 Department of Renal Medicine, Leicester General Hospital, Leicester LE5 4PW, UK
3 Department of Infection, Immunity and Inflammation, University of Leicester, University Road, Leicester LE1 9HN, UK

© 2013 Batool et al;

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Department of Infection, Immunity and Inflammation, College of Medicine, Biological Sciences and Psychology, University of Leicester, Maurice Shock Medical Sciences Building, University Road, Leicester LE1 9HN, UK; Tel: ++441162525032; Fax: ++441162525030; E-mail:
§ This contains part of S. Batool’s BSc dissertation and N. Abbasian’s PhD thesis (University of Leicester).


Microparticles (MPs) were long dismissed as “platelet-dust”, cell debris, with no functional significance. Theyare anucleated vesicles (0.1μm to 1μm), enclosed in a membrane, secretedinto the circulation by cells during cell activation or apoptosis. They have now emerged as mediators and markers of inflammatory diseases and autoimmune disorders. They are distinctly different from exosomes and apoptotic bodiesand are released from nearly every cell type, the most abundant being platelets, leukocytes and endothelial cells. MPs can be detected using flow cytometry and more recently by nanotechnology, which is more accuratein detecting, quantifying and phenotypingMPs.

MPs are instrumental in the pathogenesis of various cardiovascular diseases (thrombotic and atherosclerotic) through their pro-inflammatory and pro-coagulant properties. Their levels are significantly elevated in chronic inflammatory disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis. However, increasing evidence suggests they also possess antiinflammatory and anti-coagulant roles which could confer immunoprotection. MPs transport various lipids, proteins, mRNA and microRNA (miRNA) which may influence activities of receiving cells. Particularly the miRNAspecies delivered by MPs have been shown to modulate inflammation.

In vitro and in vivo studies are being conducted to bioengineer MPs to facilitate delivery of therapeutic compounds to desired location safely, specifically and more effectively, with fewer side effects. More research is required to understand the composition, origin, mechanisms of formation and release as well as their clearance from the circulation to pave way for gaining greater pharmacological benefits by controlling MP-mediated cellular responses.

Keywords: Autoimmune Disease, Biomarkers, Cardiovascular Disease.