Exosomes for drug delivery - a novel application for the mesenchymal stem cell

Biotechnol Adv. 2013 Sep-Oct;31(5):543-51. doi: 10.1016/j.biotechadv.2012.08.008. Epub 2012 Aug 25.


Exosomes are the most extensively characterized class of secreted membrane vesicles that carry proteins and RNAs for intercellular communication. They are increasingly seen as possible alternatives to liposomes as drug delivery vehicles. Like liposomes, they could deliver their cargo across the plasma membrane and provide a barrier against premature transformation and elimination. In addition, these naturally-occurring secreted membrane vesicles are less toxic and better tolerated in the body as evidenced by their ubiquitous presence in biological fluids, and have an intrinsic homing ability. They are also amenable to in vivo and in vitro loading of therapeutic agents, and membrane modifications to enhance tissue-specific homing. Here we propose human mesenchymal stem cells as the ideal cell source of exosomes for drug delivery. Mesenchymal stem cell transplantation for various disease indications has been extensively tested and shown to be safe in numerous clinical trials. These cells are also prolific producers of immunologically inert exosomes. Immortalization of these cells does not compromise the quantity or quality of exosome production, thus enabling infinite and reproducible exosome production from a single cell clone.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Drug Delivery Systems / methods*
  • Exosomes*
  • Humans
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cell Transplantation / methods*
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / ultrastructure*