Acute kidney injury (AKI) and chronic kidney disease (CKD) are rising in global prevalence and cause significant morbidity for patients. Current treatments are limited to slowing instead of stabilising or reversing disease progression. In this review, we describe mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) and their constituents, extracellular vesicles (EVs) as being a novel therapeutic for CKD. MSC-derived EVs (MSC-EVs) are membrane-enclosed particles, including exosomes, which carry genetic information that mimics the phenotype of their cell of origin. MSC-EVs deliver their cargo of mRNA, miRNA, cytokines, and growth factors to target cells as a form of paracrine communication. This genetically reprograms pathophysiological pathways, which are upregulated in renal failure. Since the method of exosome preparation significantly affects the quality and function of MSC-exosomes, this review compares the methodologies for isolating exosomes from MSCs and their role in tissue regeneration. More specifically, it summarises the therapeutic efficacy of MSC-EVs in 60 preclinical animal models of AKI and CKD and the cargo of biomolecules they deliver. MSC-EVs promote tubular proliferation and angiogenesis, and inhibit apoptosis, oxidative stress, inflammation, the epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition, and fibrosis, to alleviate AKI and CKD. By reprogramming these pathophysiological pathways, MSC-EVs can slow or even reverse the progression of AKI to CKD, and therefore offer potential to transform clinical practice.
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