Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are being extensively investigated for their potential in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. However, recent evidence suggests that the beneficial effects of MSCs may be manifest by their released extracellular vesicles (EVs); typically not requiring the administration of MSCs. This evidence, predominantly from pre-clinical in vitro and in vivo studies, suggests that MSC-EVs may exhibit substantial therapeutic properties in many pathophysiological conditions, potentially restoring an extensive range of damaged or diseased tissues and organs. These benefits of MSC EVs are apparently found, regardless of the anatomical or body fluid origin of the MSCs (and include e.g., bone marrow, adipose tissue, umbilical cord, urine, etc). Furthermore, early indications suggest that the favourable effects of MSC-EVs could be further enhanced by modifying the way in which the donor MSCs are cultured (for example, in hypoxic compared to normoxic conditions, in 3D compared to 2D culture formats) and/or if the EVs are subsequently bio-engineered (for example, loaded with specific cargo). So far, few human clinical trials of MSC-EVs have been conducted and questions remain unanswered on whether the heterogeneous population of EVs is beneficial or some specific sub-populations, how best we can culture and scale-up MSC-EV production and isolation for clinical utility, and in what format they should be administered. However, as reviewed here, there is now substantial evidence supporting the use of MSC-EVs in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine and further research to establish how best to exploit this approach for societal and economic benefit is warranted.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited