Exosomes are a group of nanosized extracellular vesicles that include various bioactive nucleic acids, lipids, and proteins. They originate from membrane invagination and are released by exocytosis, which can transmit signals to target cells to achieve cell-to-cell communication and maintain homeostasis. The heart is a complex multicellular organ that contains resident cell types such as fibroblasts, endothelial cells, and smooth muscle cells. Communication between different cell types and immune systems is essential for the dynamic equilibrium of the cardiac internal environment. Intercellular communication is a universal phenomenon mediated by exosomes and their contents during several pathological processes in cardiovascular diseases, such as cardiomyocyte hypertrophy, apoptosis, and angiogenesis. Therefore, exosomes can be used as novel invasive diagnostic biomarkers in multiple diseases, including atherosclerosis, myocardial ischemia, cardiac fibrosis, and ischemia-reperfusion injury. In addition, the biocompatible nature and low immunogenicity of exosomes make them high-quality nanoparticle drug carriers with potential applications in translational medicine and therapeutic strategies. Researchers from the University of Tokyo discuss on the biogenesis, isolation, biological functions, and future application prospects of exosomes in cardiovascular disease.
Functions of exosomes in translational medicine
Exosomes have the potential to serve as biomarkers and vaccine and drug carriers. Methods used for exosomal drug delivery include direct loading of drugs into exosomes, extrusion of drug-loaded cells to generate exosome-mimetic vesicles, integration of modified liposomes with exosomes to create hybrid exosomes, and transfer of target plasmids into cells to generate target exosomes.