Exosome therapy is a burgeoning field in regenerative medicine and is now being offered in many US clinics. This therapy has the potential to regenerate, heal, and repair but many claims being made are not yet supported by scientific studies. Although the scientific community has known about exosomes for many years, the science is only now beginning to define their role. Recent in vitro (in “petri dish”, not in patients) studies have demonstrated the safety, efficacy, and therapeutic potential of exosomes in various cancers, neurodegenerative, cardiovascular, regenerative, and orthopedic diseases1. However, this same reference provides this warning: “At this moment the EV’s do not have a standardized protocol for isolation and storage; and include homemade cocktails as protocols with no standardization for reagents, storage containers, and storage time for each desired EV-based product.” This blog briefly highlights the basics of exosomes and touches on some of the promising benefits and current risks.
Exosomes are vesicles, or cellular components, that exist outside of a cell. They are present in nearly all cells, tissues, and body fluids and historically were considered to be transporters of cellular waste. Today they are known for their vital role in intercellular communication and transportation. Studies have shown that exosomes have a role in the movement of proteins, lipids and nucleic acids contributing to disease2. They also facilitate a range of important cellular functions and transfer DNA, RNA, and proteins to other cells.
Exosomes are master communicators in the body and are understood to take on properties of the cell from which they are derived. Studies have shown that exosomes can help manage certain degenerative conditions through cell proliferation and growth at injured sites. They also help repair tissue and reduce inflammation so patients with degenerative diseases may benefit the most from exosome therapy. Chronic inflammation, autoimmune disease, and other chronic degenerative diseases are also candidates for this treatment3.
The potential of using exosomes for therapeutic, regenerative, and cosmetic indications is very promising and with further advancements in the field scientists hopefully will be able to demonstrate their full potential backed by scientific evidence. For this to be accomplished, more basic research needs to happen, particularly around the isolation and purification of exosomes to assure safety of any final product as well as the need for more human clinical studies testing efficacy. These studies and more will help establish the foundation for the therapeutic use of exosomes by proving they are safe and effective, because to date this is not the case as no exosome product has been approved by the FDA4. Thus, all exosome therapies in use today are simply experimental and therefore unregulated5. It is an exciting time for exosomes, and we look forward to seeing how new studies and clinical trial data translate into therapeutic treatments.