Clinical EV Research

extracellular vesicles clinical research

Although research on EVs has been progressing at a rapid rate since their discovery several decades ago, further investigations are needed to develop a complete understanding of their functional capabilities. 

EVs are involved in an array of physiological and pathological processes including stem cell differentiation, inflammation, tumorigenesis, blood coagulation, and many more.(1
As a result, their ability to act as carriers of biomarkers for diseases has become a prominent and rewarding topic of scientific discovery. The use of EVs as biomarkers is particularly convenient because these cargo vehicles are present in most human biological fluids and can be extracted using minimally or non-invasive “liquid biopsy” methods. 

Additionally, a growing body of evidence points to the comparability of cell culture-derived EVs and patient-derived EVs for similar diagnoses.(2-5) Cells harvested from patients with a particular disease appear to maintain their EV profile over time, consistently releasing EVs of the same composition. The EV profiles of several disease phenotypes have been characterized,(6-11) allowing the extrapolation from cell culture-derived EVs to liquid biopsy-derived EVs, further enabling the use of fluid samples as diagnostic tests for biomarkers of disease. 

The utility of EVs for diagnostic purposes is not limited to identifying a disease state, but also for assessing the efficacy of a therapeutics and other clinical treatments.

Why EVs hold promise as drug delivery vehicles

  • EVs possess many inherent advantages that make them ideal candidates for the development of drug delivery systems:
  • EVs are intrinsically capable of delivering an array of therapeutic cargo including nucleic acids and proteins. 
  • EVs appear to be equipped to overcome biological barriers, such as the blood brain barrier, to preferentially target particular cell types and tissues.(12, 13
  • The lipid bilayer and negatively charged surface of EVs under physiological conditions give them excellent circulatory stability.(14, 15
  • Unlike synthetic drug delivery molecules, EVs are produced and packaged by endogenous cellular machinery. Thus, EVs have the potential to significantly simplify the drug loading process, which currently represents a major challenge in developing novel delivery systems. (16, 17)
  • EV safety profiles are quite encouraging. Owing to their endogenous nature, EVs are less likely to be immunogenic or cytotoxic than other synthetic delivery systems. Moreover, EVs  are nonreplicative and nonmutagenic, which gives them an edge over some virus-based delivery particles.

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  2. De Toro J, Herschlik L, Waldner C, Mongini C. Emerging roles of exosomes in normal and pathological conditions: new insights for diagnosis and therapeutic applications. Front Immunol. 2015;6:203.
  3. Ipas H, Guttin A, Issartel JP. Exosomal MicroRNAs in Tumoral U87 MG Versus Normal Astrocyte Cells. Microrna. 2015;4(2):131-45.
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