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Extracellular RNAs (exRNAs) have been identified in all tested biofluids and have been associated with a variety of extracellular vesicles, ribonucleoprotein complexes and lipoprotein complexes. Much of the interest in exRNAs lies in the fact that they may serve as signalling molecules between cells, their potential to serve as biomarkers for prediction and diagnosis of disease and the possibility that exRNAs or the extracellular particles that carry them might be used for therapeutic purposes. Among the most significant bottlenecks to progress in this field is the lack of robust and standardized methods for collection and processing of biofluids, separation of different types of exRNA-containing particles and isolation and analysis of exRNAs. The Sample and Assay Standards Working Group of the Extracellular RNA Communication Consortium is a group of laboratories funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health to develop such methods. In our first joint endeavour, we held a series of conference calls and in-person meetings to survey the methods used among our members, placed them in the context of the current literature and used our findings to identify areas in which the identification of robust methodologies would promote rapid advancements in the exRNA field.