From Nature Outlook by Jyoti Madhusoodanan
Extracellular vesicles released in response to cigarette smoke might trigger chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, but engineered versions could be a treatment.
In the 1980s, researchers found that healthy cells release small, membrane-wrapped packages that are now known as exosomes. They originate deep inside cells, where they are loaded with cargo including specific proteins and RNA before being released to travel beyond the cell.
Initially, researchers thought of exosomes as a means of intercellular communication.
“At the time, people thought exosomes were only released to relay neurotransmitters or hormones,” says pulmonologist Yang Jin of Boston University, Massachusetts. “Their importance has only been recognized in the last ten years or so.”
Now, scientists know that nearly all cells shed exosomes. And Jin and others have found that these vesicles might be key to the symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).