Microparticles (MPs), small membrane-derived vesicles, are derived from many cell types and released into the circulation. Microparticles can express antigens, and contain cell surface proteins, cytoplasmic contents, and nuclear components from their cell of origin that determines their composition, characterization, and transfer of biologic information. Certain prompts for this release include shear stress, complement activation, proapoptotic stimulation, cellular damage, or agonist interaction with cell surface receptors. Release can be physiologic or pathologic and is associated with proinflammatory and procoagulant effects and has been implicated in thrombotic states. Microparticles also contribute to systemic inflammation and cardiovascular, hematologic, and oncologic disease states. The study of MPs in human medicine is rapidly advancing and extends into the physiology of health, the pathophysiology of disease, and the role of MPs in transfusion medicine. In veterinary medicine, published work on MPs has been limited to the area of inherited disorders, blood storage, and leukoreduction (LR). Microparticle research is still in its infancy, and this review should be seen as a snapshot of what is currently known. As research continues important limitations, including variations in preanalytic variables such as collection, storage, or centrifugation, and limitations of quantitation are coming to the forefront. Correlation of quantitation of MPs with assays of activity will hopefully shed light on the true nature of MPs in health and disease. This review will focus on the role of cellular exocytic vesiculation in health, disease, and transfusion medicine.
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