Engineering exosomes as refined biological nanoplatforms for drug delivery

Acta Pharmacol Sin. 2017 Jun;38(6):754-763. doi: 10.1038/aps.2017.12. Epub 2017 Apr 10.


Exosomes, a subgroup of extracellular vesicles (EVs), have been recognized as important mediators of long distance intercellular communication and are involved in a diverse range of biological processes. Because of their ideal native structure and characteristics, exosomes are promising nanocarriers for clinical use. Exosomes are engineered at the cellular level under natural conditions, but successful exosome modification requires further exploration. The focus of this paper is to summarize passive and active loading approaches, as well as specific exosome modifications and examples of the delivery of therapeutic and imaging molecules. Examples of exosomes derived from a variety of biological origins are also provided. The biocompatible characteristics of exosomes, with suitable modifications, can increase the stability and efficacy of imaging probes and therapeutics while enhancing cellular uptake. Challenges in clinical translation of exosome-based platforms from different cell sources and the advantages of each are also reviewed and discussed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Drug Carriers / chemistry
  • Drug Carriers / metabolism
  • Drug Delivery Systems*
  • Exosomes / chemistry*
  • Exosomes / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Nanomedicine*
  • Nanoparticles / chemistry
  • Nanoparticles / metabolism


  • Drug Carriers