Extracellular vesicles (EVs) are nanoscale particles secreted by almost all cell types to facilitate intercellular communication. Stem cell-derived EVs theoretically have the same biological functions as stem cells, but offer the advantages of small size, low immunogenicity, and removal of issues such as low cell survival and unpredictable long-term behaviour associated with direct cell transplantation. They have been an area of intense interest in regenerative medicine, due to the potential to harness their anti-inflammatory and pro-regenerative effects to induce healing in a wide variety of tissues. However, the potential of using stem cell-derived EVs for treating joint injury and osteoarthritis has not yet been extensively explored. The pathogenesis of osteoarthritis, with or without prior joint injury, is not well understood, and there is a longstanding unmet clinical need to develop new treatments that provide a therapeutic effect in preventing or stopping joint degeneration, rather than merely relieving the symptoms of the disease. This review summarises the current evidence relating to stem cell-derived EVs in joint injury and osteoarthritis, providing a concise discussion of their characteristics, advantages, therapeutic effects, limitations and outlook in this exciting new area.
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