Extracellular vesicles: biology and emerging therapeutic opportunities

Nat Rev Drug Discov. 2013 May;12(5):347-57. doi: 10.1038/nrd3978. Epub 2013 Apr 15.


Within the past decade, extracellular vesicles have emerged as important mediators of intercellular communication, being involved in the transmission of biological signals between cells in both prokaryotes and higher eukaryotes to regulate a diverse range of biological processes. In addition, pathophysiological roles for extracellular vesicles are beginning to be recognized in diseases including cancer, infectious diseases and neurodegenerative disorders, highlighting potential novel targets for therapeutic intervention. Moreover, both unmodified and engineered extracellular vesicles are likely to have applications in macromolecular drug delivery. Here, we review recent progress in understanding extracellular vesicle biology and the role of extracellular vesicles in disease, discuss emerging therapeutic opportunities and consider the associated challenges.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cell Communication / drug effects*
  • Cell Communication / physiology*
  • Cell-Derived Microparticles
  • Drug Delivery Systems
  • Drug Therapy*
  • Exosomes
  • Extracellular Space / drug effects
  • Extracellular Space / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Translational Research, Biomedical