Extracellular vesicles isolated from milk can improve gut barrier dysfunction induced by malnutrition

Malnutrition impacts approximately 50 million children worldwide and is linked to 45% of global mortality in children below the age of five. Severe acute malnutrition (SAM) is associated with intestinal barrier breakdown and epithelial atrophy. Extracellular vesicles including exosomes (EVs; 30-150 nm) can travel to distant target cells through biofluids including milk. Since milk-derived EVs are known to induce intestinal stem cell proliferation, researchers from the University of Toronto aimed to examine their potential efficacy in improving malnutrition-induced atrophy of intestinal mucosa and barrier dysfunction. Mice were fed either a control (18%) or a low protein (1%) diet for 14 days to induce malnutrition. From day 10 to 14, they received either bovine milk EVs or control gavage and were sacrificed on day 15, 4 h after a Fluorescein Isothiocyanate (FITC) dose. Tissue and blood were collected for histological and epithelial barrier function analyses. Mice fed low protein diet developed intestinal villus atrophy and barrier dysfunction. Despite continued low protein diet feeding, milk EV treatment improved intestinal permeability, intestinal architecture and cellular proliferation. These  results suggest that EVs enriched from milk should be further explored as a valuable adjuvant therapy to standard clinical management of malnourished children with high risk of morbidity and mortality.

Conceptual model

Figure 7

Framework representing a mode of action of milk EVs in the restoration of barrier dysfunction and the repair of structural injury seen in the small intestinal villi of malnourished animals. Milk EV-treatment induced repair, at least in part, through increased stem cell proliferation in intestinal crypts. 

Maghraby MK, Li B, Chi L, Ling C, Benmoussa A, Provost P, Postmus AC, Abdi A, Pierro A, Bourdon C, Bandsma RHJ. (2021) Extracellular vesicles isolated from milk can improve gut barrier dysfunction induced by malnutrition. Sci Rep 11(1):7635. [article]

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