Skeletal muscle regeneration relies on the tightly temporally regulated lineage progression of muscle stem/progenitor cells (MPCs) from activation to proliferation and, finally, differentiation. However, with aging, MPC lineage progression is disrupted and delayed, ultimately causing impaired muscle regeneration. Extracellular vesicles (EVs) have attracted broad attention as next-generation therapeutics for promoting tissue regeneration. As a next step toward clinical translation, strategies to manipulate EV effects on downstream cellular targets are needed.
Researchers at the Schoen Adams Research Institute have developed an engineering strategy to tune the therapeutic potential of EVs using nanotopographical cues. The researchers found that EVs released by young MPCs cultured on flat substrates (fEVs) promoted the proliferation of aged MPCs while EVs released by MPCs cultured on nanogratings (nEVs) promoted myogenic differentiation. They then employed a bioengineered 3D muscle aging model to optimize the administration protocol and test the therapeutic potential of fEVs and nEVs in a high-throughput manner. They found that the sequential administration first of fEVs during the phase of MPC proliferative expansion (i.e., 1 day after injury) followed by nEV administration at the stage of MPC differentiation (i.e., 3 days after injury) enhanced aged muscle regeneration to a significantly greater extent than fEVs and nEVs delivered either in isolation or mixed. The beneficial effects of the sequential EV treatment strategy were further validated in vivo, as evidenced by increased myofiber size and improved functional recovery. Collectively, this study demonstrates the ability of topographical cues to tune EV therapeutic potential and highlights the importance of optimizing the EV administration strategy to accelerate aged skeletal muscle regeneration.