Effects of Mesenchymal Stem Cell-Derived Exosomes on Autoimmune Diseases

Front Immunol. 2021 Sep 27:12:749192. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2021.749192. eCollection 2021.


Recent years, the immunosuppressive properties of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) have been demonstrated in preclinical studies and trials of inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. Emerging evidence indicates that the immunomodulatory effect of MSCs is primarily attributed to the paracrine pathway. As one of the key paracrine effectors, mesenchymal stem cell-derived exosomes (MSC-EXOs) are small vesicles 30-200 nm in diameter that play an important role in cell-to-cell communication by carrying bioactive substances from parental cells. Recent studies support the finding that MSC-EXOs have an obvious inhibitory effect toward different effector cells involved in the innate and adaptive immune response. Moreover, substantial progress has been made in the treatment of autoimmune diseases, including multiple sclerosis (MS), systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), type-1 diabetes (T1DM), uveitis, rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). MSC-EXOs are capable of reproducing MSC function and overcoming the limitations of traditional cell therapy. Therefore, using MSC-EXOs instead of MSCs to treat autoimmune diseases appears to be a promising cell-free treatment strategy. In this review, we review the current understanding of MSC-EXOs and discuss the regulatory role of MSC-EXOs on immune cells and its potential application in autoimmune diseases.

Keywords: autoimmune diseases; exosomes; immunoregulation; mesenchymal stem cells; therapy.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autoimmune Diseases / immunology*
  • Exosomes / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Immunomodulation
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / immunology*