Are you curious about how exosomes relate to conversations about stem cells? Maybe you’ve heard of exosome therapy and its regenerative capabilities.
But what exactly is exosome therapy and what are the benefits to cell biology?
Keep reading for an introduction to exosomes so you can better understand how this type of therapy is advancing the field.
What are Exosomes and Why Are Exosomes Important?
Exosomes have been described as tiny bubbles that are released from cells, especially from stem cells. They’re also called extracellular vesicles. These “bubbles” are lipid spheres that carry genetic information and protein to be delivered to other cells.
This type of cell-to-cell communication involves transporting molecules. Essentially, exosomes carry information to cells with different functions and purposes. They tell cells how to react and when to react.
Exosomes travel through the bloodstream. They also reach their target organs and tissues by crossing the blood-brain barrier.
The main intention for exosomes is to signal important information to cells that can’t communicate well with each other. This is usually because of a decease process or normal aging.
How Do Exosomes Work and How Are Exosomes Different from Stem Cells?
The exosomes that are used in regenerative therapy come from stem cells. Exosomes contain a lot of the same important functions of stem cells, but they are different.
The use of stem cells became popular in the early 2000s. Adult stem cells have been used in therapy and the goal was for these cells to migrate to the area of disease or damage in the body. The most common type of adult stem cell is the mesenchymal stem cell (“MSC”).
There are many benefits and risks to this type of therapy. The safety has also not been proven, according to the FDA.
Over time, it became clear that adult stem cells rarely facilitate new tissue growth. However, they can be highly beneficial for their cell signaling. The cells that will heal the body are thought to already be there, but they need the proper signals. Science is now showing us that exosomes are an effective way for stem cells to deliver these signals.
Exosomes are able to tell cells how and when to react. This is because of their shape and content. They carry messenger RNA, genetic information, and proteins.
Exosomes that are from stem cells, such as MSCs, appear to exert powerful effects. For example, they may be anti-inflammatory or prevent scar tissue formation or facilitate a healthy immune response. Messenger RNA helps other cells by inserting missing cell information.
What is Exosome Therapy?
Exosomes are being looked at for many types of therapy. It’s thought that patients who suffer from degenerative diseases can greatly benefit from exosome therapy.
This is because exosomes that are derived from stem cells have anti-inflammatory possibilities. They can induce high levels of anti-inflammatory cytokines.
So patients with autoimmune disease can benefit. Exosome therapy may also benefit patients with inflammation and degenerative joint disease.
There are many approaches that are being researched for creating drug-loaded exosomes. One approach includes using a drug in exosomes that have been refined from donor cells. Another approach is looking at loading cells with a drug, which is then contained in exosomes.
One large biotechnology start-up that is leading development on exosome-based drugs is called Codiak BioSciences. Evox is another company that is developing exosome treatments. They are specifically looking to use exosome treatments for rare diseases.
Exosome therapy holds a huge potential and is also researched in cancer cell-derived exosomes. Researchers are looking at exosome drugs that could be harvested from stem cells and then housed in a bioreactor. Once they’re purified, they could become a drug product that’s given by injection or infusion.
What Are Benefits of Exosome Therapy and How is it Used Today?
As time goes on and research develops, there are reports of the benefits to exosome therapy. Some patients report feeling reduced inflammation from their chronic disease. This leads researchers to hypothesize that exosomes may have a role in helping to repair or regulate disease progression.
Exosome therapy is also being explored in Lyme Disease patients, as using exosomes might break the inflammatory cycle. It may also provide the body with cellular information that could help in the healing process.
Exosome therapy might be less risky than live stem cell transplants. This is because exosomes can’t replicate and they can’t transform into harmful cell types.
Other diseases like Parkinson’s Disease might also benefit from exosome therapy. This disease is due to a loss of specialized cells over time. Exosomes have regenerative genetic material and deliver protein and lipid cellular building blocks. These properties can help restore cells to health.
What are the Risks?
It’s possible that a person could reject the exosomes. This is seen as unlikely since exosomes aren’t cells or tissues so the body would probably not see them as a foreign substance.
Clinical trials are looking at the risks and seeing that it’s possible for exosomes to die-off, so many are giving a small test dose before a larger one.
Most importantly, no exosome products have been approved by the FDA. Meaning, all exosome therapies are experimental.
In some cases, they may be incorporated as a part of an approved stem cell treatment.
What Is The Cost of Exosome Therapy?
As explained above, there are no approved exosome therapies, so all exosome treatments are experimental and unapproved by the U.S. FDA.
Nonetheless, there are companies within the U.S. (and worldwide) that offer exosome treatments.
According to our research, exosomes treatments in the U.S. average between $3,500 to $6,500. The most common price point is around $4,900. These exosome therapies are either delivered by intravenous infusion for chronic or systemic (full-body) conditions. Or, they are administered by local injection for site-specific conditions (usually orthopedic).
Understanding Exosome Therapy and Its Uses Today
The above introduction to exosome therapy will help you understand the basics of exosomes and how they’re being used today.
It’s important to understand how exosomes could benefit people with degenerative diseases and what types of therapies are being developed. The anti-inflammatory properties of exosomes could potentially make them a useful treatment for many types of diseases. Research continues to expand, especially as exosomes relate to stem cells.
What questions do you have about exosome therapy? Ask them in the comments below.