Stroke is one of the most common causes of disability and death, and currently, ideal clinical treatment is lacking. Stem cell transplantation is a widely-used treatment approach for stroke. When compared with other types of stem cells, bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells (BMSCs) have been widely studied because of their many advantages. The paracrine effect is the primary mechanism for stem cells to play their role, and exosomes play an essential role in the paracrine effect. When compared with cell therapy, cell-free exosome therapy can prevent many risks and difficulties, and therefore, represents a promising and novel approach for treatment. In this study, we reviewed the research progress in the application of BMSCs-derived exosomes (BMSCs-exos) and BMSCs in the treatment of stroke. In addition, the advantages and disadvantages of cell therapy and cell-free exosome therapy were described, and the possible factors that hinder the introduction of these two treatments into the clinic were analyzed. Furthermore, we reviewed the current optimization methods of cell therapy and cell-free exosome therapy. Taken together, we hypothesize that cell-free exosome therapy will have excellent research prospects in the future, and therefore, it is worth further exploring. There are still some issues that need to be further addressed. For example, differences between the in vivo microenvironment and in vitro culture conditions will affect the paracrine effect of stem cells. Most importantly, we believe that more preclinical and clinical design studies are required to compare the efficacy of stem cells and exosomes.
Keywords: BMSCs; Exosomes; Paracrine effects; Stroke; Transplantation.
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