Extracellular Vesicles and Neurodegenerative Diseases

J Neurosci. 2019 Nov 20;39(47):9269-9273. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0147-18.2019.


Extracellular vesicles (EVs) include exosomes and microvesicles and have been shown to have roles in the CNS ranging from the removal of unwanted biomolecules to intercellular communication to the spread of pathogenic proteins associated with neurodegenerative diseases. EVs carry protein, lipid, and genetic cargo, and research over more than a decade has shown that they contain the misfolded forms of proteins associated with Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and the prion diseases. Altered genetic cargo, usually in the form of miRNAs, have also been identified in EVs patients with these diseases, suggesting that EVs may be a source of disease biomarkers. Whether EVs play a key role in the pathogenesis of neurological diseases remains to be firmly established because most current research is performed using cell culture and transgenic animal models. If EVs are identified as a key pathological contributor to neurological conditions, they will form a novel target for therapeutic intervention. This Dual Perspectives article will discuss the current understanding of the role of EVs in neurological diseases and raise some of the limitations of our current understandings of this field.

Keywords: Alzheimer's disease; cell biology; exosomes; extracellular vesicles; neurodegenerative disease; prion disease.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Brain / pathology
  • Cell Communication / physiology*
  • Exosomes / metabolism
  • Exosomes / pathology
  • Extracellular Vesicles / metabolism*
  • Extracellular Vesicles / pathology
  • Humans
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / metabolism*
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / pathology