Exosomes are enclosed within a single outer membrane and exemplify a specific subtype of secreted vesicles. Exosomes transfer signalling molecules, including microRNAs (miRNAs), messenger RNA (mRNA), fatty acids, proteins, and growth factors, making them a promising therapeutic tool. In routine bioartificial pancreas fabrication, cells are immobilized in polymeric hydrogels lacking attachment capability for cells and other biological cues.
Researchers at Wake Forest School of Medicine discuss the potential role that exosomes and their specific biofactors may play to improve and sustain the function of this bioartificial construct. They particularly discuss the challenges associated with their isolation and characterization. Since stem cells are an attractive source of exosomes, the researchers present the advantages of using exosomes in place of stem cells in medical devices including the bioartificial pancreas. They provide literature evidence of active biofactors in exosomes to support their incorporation in the matrix of encapsulated islets. This will include their potential beneficial effect on hypoxic injury to encapsulated islets. In summary, the researchers propose that the biofactors contained in secreted exosomes have significant potential to enhance the performance of islets encapsulated in polymeric material hydrogels with perm-selective properties to provide immunoisolation for islet transplants as an insulin delivery platform in diabetes.