Inhibition of apoptosis using exosomes

Animal cell culture technology for therapeutic protein production has shown significant improvement over the last few decades. Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells have been widely adapted for the production of biopharmaceutical drugs. In the biopharmaceutical industry, it is crucial to develop cell culture media and culturing conditions to achieve the highest productivity and quality. However, CHO cells are significantly affected by apoptosis in the bioreactors, resulting in a substantial decrease in product quantity and quality. Thus, to overcome the obstacle of apoptosis in CHO cell culture, it is critical to develop a novel method that does not have minimal concern of safety or cost.

Researchers from Incheon National University showed for the first time that exosomes, which are nano-sized extracellular vesicles, derived from CHO cells inhibited apoptosis in CHO cell culture when supplemented to the culture medium. Flow cytometric and microscopic analyses revealed that substantial amounts of exosomes were delivered to CHO cells. Higher cell viability after staurosporine treatment was observed by exosome supplementation (67.3%) as compared to control (41.1%). Furthermore, exosomes prevented the mitochondrial membrane potential loss and caspase-3 activation, meaning that the exosomes enhanced cellular activities under pro-apoptotic condition. As the exosomes supplements are derived from CHO cells themselves, it is not only beneficial for the biopharmaceutical productivity of CHO cell culture to inhibit apoptosis, but also from a regulatory standpoint to diminish any safety concerns. Thus, the researchers conclude that the method developed in this research may contribute to the biopharmaceutical industry where minimizing apoptosis in CHO cell culture is beneficial.


(A) Illustration of CHO cell-derived exosomes for the inhibition of CHO cell  apoptosis induced by STS (staurosporine). (B) Intracellular delivery of exosomes  from culture medium to CHO cell by different mechanisms including  macropinocytosis, clathrin-mediated endocytosis, and membrane fusion (from the  right in the figure). Internalized exosomes release their components and interfere the  apoptosis progression.

Han S, Rhee WJ. (2018) Inhibition of Apoptosis Using Exosomes in Chinese Hamster Ovary Cell Culture. Biotechnol Bioeng [Epub ahead of print]. [abstract]

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