Much of the medical research and clinical applications of regenerative medicine have thus far focused on stem cells and their potential to repair damaged or diseased tissue that has not responded to conventional therapies. Though there has been a lot of evidence to suggest that the use of certain types of stem cells can be safe, experts have suggested that strategies for therapy that can avoid the use of living stem cells may provide an even better opportunity to slow the progression of various diseases.
Paracrine secretions have been shown to play a significant role in the ability of stem cells to improve disease conditions, and exosomes are a key element of these secretions. From a functional standpoint, exosomes enable stem cells to transfer their genetic information to other cells residing in the damaged tissue.
Because these exosomes are responsible for some of the critical benefits of stem cells, researchers have speculated that the use of exosomes rather than stem cells may provide specific advantages in some therapeutic contexts. A review in Stem Cells International has provided a comprehensive overview of what is known so far about the potential role of exosomes in regenerative medicine.
Exosomes are released from a wide variety of stem cell types and influence the functioning of nearby cells and tissues. The use of exosomes alone may offer better therapeutic results. Indeed, exosomes have shown particular promise in addressing otherwise incurable diseases.
In addition to developing our understanding of how exosomes can work to repair damaged tissue and improve functioning, new research efforts should also help to identify ways to overcome practical challenges associated with the use of exosomes. Isolating exosomes, for instance, can be time-consuming and require a large volume of cells. Though researchers are hopeful that exosomes will be able to help patients in new and innovative ways, more research is needed to determine the best way to apply exosomes in regenerative medicine.
Reference: Han, C. et al. (2016). Exosomes and their therapeutic potentials of stem cells. Stem Cells International, 1-11.