The intense research focus on stem and progenitor cells could be attributed to their differentiation potential to generate new cells to replace diseased or lost cells in many highly intractable degenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer disease, multiple sclerosis, and heart diseases. However, experimental and clinical studies have increasingly attributed the therapeutic efficacy of these cells to their secretion. While stem and progenitor cells secreted many therapeutic molecules, none of these molecules singly or in combination could recapitulate the functional effects of stem cell transplantations. Recently, it was reported that extracellular vesicles (EVs) could recapitulate the therapeutic effects of stem cell transplantation. Based on the observations reported thus far, the prevailing hypothesis is that stem cell EVs exert their therapeutic effects by transferring biologically active molecules such as proteins, lipids, mRNA, and microRNA from the stem cells to injured or diseased cells. In this respect, stem cell EVs are similar to EVs from other cell types. They are both primarily vehicles for intercellular communication. Therefore, the differentiating factor is likely due to the composition of their cargo. The cargo of EVs from different cell types are known to include a common set of proteins and also proteins that reflect the cell source of the EVs and the physiological or pathological state of the cell source. Hence, elucidation of the stem cell EV cargo would provide an insight into the multiple physiological or biochemical changes necessary to affect the many reported stem cell-based therapeutic outcomes in a variety of experimental models and clinical trials.
Keywords: cellular regenerative therapeutics; exosomes; extracellular vesicles; stem cells.