The Therapeutic Potential of Breast Milk-Derived Extracellular Vesicles

Nutrients. 2020 Mar 11;12(3):745. doi: 10.3390/nu12030745.


In the past few decades, interest in the therapeutic benefits of exosomes and extracellular vesicles (EVs) has grown exponentially. Exosomes/EVs are small particles which are produced and exocytosed by cells throughout the body. They are loaded with active regulatory and stimulatory molecules from the parent cell including miRNAs and enzymes, making them prime targets in therapeutics and diagnostics. Breast milk, known for years to have beneficial health effects, contains a population of EVs which may mediate its therapeutic effects. This review offers an update on the therapeutic potential of exosomes/EVs in disease, with a focus on EVs present in human breast milk and their remedial effect in the gastrointestinal disease necrotizing enterocolitis. Additionally, the relationship between EV miRNAs, health, and disease will be examined, along with the potential for EVs and their miRNAs to be engineered for targeted treatments.

Keywords: breast milk; exosome; extracellular vesicle; necrotizing enterocolitis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Products / therapeutic use*
  • Enterocolitis, Necrotizing / etiology
  • Enterocolitis, Necrotizing / therapy
  • Exosomes / metabolism*
  • Extracellular Vesicles / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • MicroRNAs / administration & dosage
  • MicroRNAs / genetics
  • Milk, Human / metabolism*


  • Biological Products
  • MicroRNAs