As part of a recent phenomenon, many patients are taking a more active role in their healthcare, seeking new treatments and cures for their own health conditions. Unfortunately, most of us can be easily misled by information about products that are illegally marketed solely for profit1. One example of this is exosome treatments. There have been many claims that exosomes are the harbinger of longevity and rejuvenation. While all medical treatments have their respective risks and benefits, unapproved exosome products expose patients to many unknown risks because there are few scientifically validated studies that have demonstrated clear medical and safety benefits for many of the treatments now being offered.
What are exosomes?
Exosomes are extracellular vesicles released from cells. They take on the property of the cells from which they are derived to essentially carry genetic information and proteins to other cells. This allows for cell-to-cell communication, transporting molecules that are important regulators of intercellular information to communicate vital signals for homeostasis.
The potential therapeutic benefits of exosomes
Until recently the scientific community regarded exosomes as a cell waste product. Today, exosomes are studied extensively and show promise in treating various conditions including cancer as well as neurodegenerative, cardiovascular, and orthopedic diseases. Recent research has demonstrated exosomes have a high therapeutic potential for various diseases because of their role as mediators of intercellular communication. Because of these unique qualities, many exosome products are being developed in the United States. There are currently 33 exosome clinical trials registered with the FDA and many more registered trials worldwide2.
More research is needed
Exosomes play an integral role in cellular communication and regulation, one which we are just beginning to understand. Yet despite all of the ongoing research and promise of exosome treatments, our knowledge of the very basics of exosome biology is still in its infancy, and we understand just a fraction of the role they play in normal cellular function. Because there is not yet a full picture of their function, patients should be cautious and aware of the potential risks of exosome treatments. It is known that some patients treated with products marketed as containing exosomes have experienced some success but there has also been reported serious adverse events, including bacterial infections and the failure of the product to work as was expected. Exosome products are regulated by the FDA and any of these products intended to treat diseases or other conditions in humans will require FDA approval. To date, there are still no FDA-approved exosome products3.