Dr. ir. F.A.W. Coumans

Main activities
Flow cytometry, Detection of sub micron particles, cancer
Focus of research

Background Microparticles and exosomes are extracellular vesicles (EV) that are present in all bodily fluids. EV are part of the intercellular communication system. Changes in EV concentration and composition are associated with e.g. coagulation disorders and metastatic carcinomas. Consequently, concentration, size distribution and origin of these EV are currently explored for medical applications such as diagnosis, prognosis, and monitoring of treatment.

Problem Typically, the concentration is 10^10 EV per mL and their diameter range is 30-1000 nm. Because current instruments are optimised for analysing cells, and the median diameter (~60 nm) of EV is ~100-fold smaller than cells, EV detection is a major challenge.

Research Vesicle research is a young field. The Aim of my research is to develop, impelement and understand techniques that can determine the concentration of a single vesicle type in complex samples (e.g. plasma). These techniques include flow cytometry, surface plasmon resonance imaging, electron microscopy, resistive pulse sensing and nanoparticle tracking.

My focus is on flow cytometry. The flow cytometer is capable of measuring concentration, size and multiple fluorescence signals on thousands of individual EV/s. However, (1) size determination by flow cytometry is inaccurate and imprecise, (2) the presence of impurities like protein aggregates reduces specificity of measurements, and (3) sensitivity to detect EV < 250 nm is lacking. Through smart innovations on commercial flow cytometers, we can improve these systems for researchers worldwide.

Key publications
  • Coumans FAW, Doggen CJM, Attard G, de Bono JS, Terstappen LWMM, All circulating EpCAM+CK+CD45-objects predict overall survival in castration-resistant prostate cancer. ANN ONCOL 2010;21 (9):1851-1857 [PubMed]
  • Coumans FAW, Ligthart ST, Uhr JW, Terstappen LWMM, Challenges in the Enumeration and Phenotyping of CTC. CLIN CANCER RES 2012;18 (20):5711-5718 [PubMed]
  • Ligthart ST, Coumans FAW, Attard G, Cassidy AM, de Bono JS, Terstappen LWMM, Unbiased and Automated Identification of a Circulating Tumour Cell Definition That Associates with Overall Survival. PLOS ONE 2011;6 (11):e27419 [PubMed]
  • Coumans FAW, Siesling S, Terstappen LWMM, Detection of cancer before distant metastasis. BMC CANCER 2013;13:283 [PubMed]
  • Böing AN, van der Pol E, Grootemaat AE, Coumans FAW, Sturk A, Nieuwland R, Single-step isolation of extracellular vesicles by size-exclusion chromatography. J EXTRACELL VESICLES 2014;3:23430 [PubMed]
All Publications
Research programmes

Prof. dr. A.G.J.M. van Leeuwen MSc PhD (Biomedical photonics for functional and molecular imaging)

Dr. R. Nieuwland (Extracellular vesicles and platelets in health and disease)