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Fundamental research

Role of tetraspanins in the regulation of EV cargo and function

Tetraspanins are transmembrane proteins that form tetraspanin enriched membrane domains (TEM) and regulate cell adhesion and motility. Furthermore, several tetraspanins are enriched in the extracellular vesicles (EVs) and used as universal EV biomarkers. However, their role in the regulation if EV content and function is not fully understood.

We focus on the tetraspanin Tspan8, which is up-regulated in many solid tumors. To study its function, we generated a cell model expressing fluorescently tagged Tspan8 and its interacting partners, allowing tracking their recruitment to EVs and EVs visualization in vitro and in vivo.

Impact of EVs in tumor progression in metastasis

EVs play a central role in the regulation of tumor progression and metastasis. In breast and prostate cancer models, we investigate the impact of tumor-derived EVs on the growth of primary tumor and metastases formation. For that purpose, we generate in vitro 2D, 3D, and in vivo models to study EV release and function in the physiological microenvironment and spatial architecture.

Translational research and technology transfer

Assessment of disease associated EV Landscape

In recent years, we learned about EV heterogeneity. Furthermore, EV value and the experimental challenge of EV introduction into liquid biopsy for tumor and infection diagnostics and prognostics became evident.

We established several methods for isolating and separating different EV populations and free circulating components from blood and urine. Their efficiency and robustness were comprehensively tested on clinical samples.

In collaboration with clinical partners, we establish EV molecular signatures for different cancer types and infections.

Addressing an obvious need for new innovative solutions for EV detection and isolation, we collaborate with physicists, engineers, and material scientists to test alternative EV research technologies.

Development of EV- biomimetic for targeted gene and drug delivery

Being a natural communication mechanism, EVs have great potential as a tool for targeted drug delivery. However, their heterogeneity, low loading efficacy, high scaling-up expenses prompted us to develop synthetic EV biomimetic, resembling EVs by their biomechanical properties. The first experimental evidence of their applicability for gene transfer was encouraging. The full range of applications is currently under investigation.

This technological innovation served as a basis for the foundation of the CapCo Bio GmbH.

Group Leader

Prof. Dr. rer. nat. Irina Nazarenko

Phone: +49 (0) 761 270-82100
Fax: +49 (0) 761 270-82030

twitter account:
NazarenkoTeam EVs
and link as @nazarenkoteam

  • Editor and Reviewer activities
  • Member of the Editorial Boards of the American Journal of Cancer Research
  • Reviewer in the International Journal of Cancer Research
  • Reviewer in the Journal of Molecular Cell Biology


  • Founder member of the International Society of Extracellular Vesicles (ISEV)
  • European Association of Cancer Research (EACR)
  • German Cancer Society (DKG)
  • Signal Transduction Society (STS)
  • Deutscher Hochschulverband (DHV)
  • Alumni - Young Investigator Network (YIN) in Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)

Committee activities

  • 10/2010 – 11/2011 Vice Chair of the Young Investigator Networks (YIN), KIT
  • 10/2010 – 11/2011 Chair of the financial board of the Young Investigator Network (YIN), KIT
  • 09/2012 - 12/2010 Member of the WIN group responsible for the strategies of carrier and perspectives for young sciences at the KIT in the framework of the Excellence Initiative II at the KIT, Karlsruhe, Germany


Susanne Görner

Phone: + 49 (0) 761 270-82390
Fax: + 49 (0) 761 270-82030