Designer exosomes produced by implanted cells deliver therapeutic cargo

Exosomes are cell-derived nanovesicles (50-150 nm), which mediate intercellular communication, and are candidate therapeutic agents. However, inefficiency of exosomal message transfer, such as mRNA, and lack of methods to create designer exosomes have hampered their development into therapeutic interventions.

Here, researchers from ETH Zürich report a set of EXOsomal transfer into cells (EXOtic) devices that enable efficient, customizable production of designer exosomes in engineered mammalian cells. These genetically encoded devices in exosome producer cells enhance exosome production, specific mRNA packaging, and delivery of the mRNA into the cytosol of target cells, enabling efficient cell-to-cell communication without the need to concentrate exosomes. Further, engineered producer cells implanted in living mice could consistently deliver cargo mRNA to the brain. Therapeutic catalase mRNA delivery by designer exosomes attenuated neurotoxicity and neuroinflammation in in vitro and in vivo models of Parkinson’s disease, indicating the potential usefulness of the EXOtic devices for RNA delivery-based therapeutic applications.

EXOtic devices for mRNA delivery


Schematic illustration of the EXOtic devices. Exosomes containing the RNA packaging device (CD63-L7Ae), targeting module (RVG-Lamp2b to target CHRNA7), cytosolic delivery helper (Cx43 S368A) and mRNA (e.g., nluc-C/Dbox) were efficiently produced from exosome producer cells by the exosome production booster. The engineered exosomes were delivered to target cells (HEK-293T cells expressing CHRNA7) and the mRNA was delivered into the target cell cytosol with the help of the cytosolic delivery helper. Finally, protein encoded in the mRNA (e.g., nluc, represented by stars) was expressed in the target cells. 

Kojima R, Bojar D, Rizzi G, Hamri GC, El-Baba MD, Saxena P, Ausländer S, Tan KR, Fussenegger M. (2018) Designer exosomes produced by implanted cells intracerebrally deliver therapeutic cargo for Parkinson’s disease treatment. Nat Commun 9(1):1305. [article]

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