Harnessing Exosomes, The Immune System's Intercellular Messengers
Exosomes are spherical membrane packages released by almost every cell type. They can be as small as 40 nm in diameter - roughly 200 times smaller than a red blood cell.
Exosomes deliver messages to other cells in the form of proteins, lipids, genetic material and more, all packaged within their double membranes.
They play an important role in the immune response, as their cargo can influence the activity of immune cells in complex ways.
Exosomes have the power to enhance or suppress the immune system, and play an important role in many diseases including cancer.
An important property of exosomes is that they don't deliver their cargo at random. They appear to be able to home in on specific tissues, a property that could make them useful for therapuetics.
Exosomes could be used to deliver drugs in a targeted way. As they are made of cell membranes, they are more likely to be accepted by the body than vectors made from synthetic polymers.
Unfortunately, there are still some obstacles to overcome before we can harness exosomes' full potential. Exosomes get removed from the blood quickly after their introduction, and their uptake by non-target organs poses a big problem for drug delivery.
While these obstacles pose a challenge, the study of exosomes is a highly active area of research. Scientists are currently trying to develop exosome-based treatments for cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, viral infections and more.