Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) have been increasingly tested experimentally and clinically for cardiac repair. However, the underlying mechanisms remain controversial due to the poor viability and considerable death of the engrafted cells in the infracted myocardium. Recent reports have suggested that extracellular vesicles (EVs) released by MSCs have angiogenesis-promoting activity; however, the therapeutic effect of MSC-EVs on an ischemic heart is unclear. In the present study, we reported that MSCs could release a large quantity of EVs around 100 nm in diameter upon hypoxia stimulation though the majority of the cells had not experienced apoptosis. MSC-EVs could be promptly uptaken by human umbilical vein endothelial cells, and the internalization resulted in dose-dependent enhancement of in vitro proliferation, migration, and tube formation of endothelial cells. Using an acute myocardial infarction rat model, we found that intramyocardial injection of MSC-EVs markedly enhanced blood flow recovery, in accordance with reduced infarct size and preserved cardiac systolic and diastolic performance compared to those treated with PBS. These data suggest that like MSCs, MSC-EVs could also protect cardiac tissue from ischemic injury at least by means of promoting blood vessel formation, though further detailed investigations should be performed to define the functionality of MSC-EVs.
Key messages: MSCs released extracellular vesicles (EVs) upon hypoxia stimulation. MSC-EVs were a mixture of microvesicles and exosomes. MSC-EVs could be promptly uptaken by human umbilical vein endothelial cells. MSC-EVs promoted neoangiogenesis in vitro and in vivo. MSC-EVs preserved cardiac performance in an AMI model.