MicroRNAs are short noncoding RNAs consisting of 18-25 nucleotides that target specific mRNA moieties for translational repression or degradation, thereby modulating numerous biological processes. Although microRNAs have the ability to behave like oncogenes or tumor suppressors in a cell-autonomous manner, their exact roles following release into the circulation are only now being unraveled and it is important to establish sensitive assays to measure their levels in different compartments in the circulation. Here, an ultrasensitive localized surface plasmon resonance (LSPR)-based microRNA sensor with single nucleotide specificity was developed using chemically synthesized gold nanoprisms attached onto a solid substrate with unprecedented long-term stability and reversibility. The sensor was used to specifically detect microRNA-10b at the attomolar (10(-18) M) concentration in pancreatic cancer cell lines, derived tissue culture media, human plasma, and media and plasma exosomes. In addition, for the first time, our label-free and nondestructive sensing technique was used to quantify microRNA-10b in highly purified exosomes isolated from patients with pancreatic cancer or chronic pancreatitis, and from normal controls. We show that microRNA-10b levels were significantly higher in plasma-derived exosomes from pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma patients when compared with patients with chronic pancreatitis or normal controls. Our findings suggest that this unique technique can be used to design novel diagnostic strategies for pancreatic and other cancers based on the direct quantitative measurement of plasma and exosome microRNAs, and can be readily extended to other diseases with identifiable microRNA signatures.