Exosome therapy is being hailed as the next big thing in regenerative medicine. Stem cells are still the leading therapy in regenerative medicine and that is not about to change any time soon. Exosomes are actually part of stem cells and some researchers are looking to use just that specific part of a stem cell for therapy. But, what are exosomes in the first place? Let’s go into detail on the new form of therapy.
What are Exosomes
Exosomes are the tool that cells use to communicate with each other. The exosomes have information in the form of chemicals called cytokines and messenger RNA (m-RNA). These allow the cells to communicate with each other and give each other important information such as repairing tissue. That is still rather confusing so let’s break it down even further.
Breaking Down Buildings
One easy way to think about how exosomes work is picturing a big city with plenty of buildings and people. The buildings are cells and they communicate by utilizing people entering in and out of buildings/cells. The people in this situation are exosomes which are carrying the information to the buildings/cells. The buildings/cells then know what to do based on the information that the people/exosomes deliver.
If the wrong information is communicated to the buildings then the building could potentially be demolished. The people/exosomes can go to the wrong building or be carrying the wrong information, which can cause serious problems for patients. Exosomes from one cell could potentially damage the health of another cell. If a patient receives a full blown exosome therapy then the exosomes could damage a large portion of healthy tissue.
The Problem with Exosomes
The issue with exosomes is that many of them are harvested from stem cell cultures. The stem cells are not inside the patient’s body yet so the necessary exosomes to help facilitate injury repair are not present. Basically, the exosomes harvested by themselves are similar to sending out a plumber to do a carpenter’s job. Yes, both may be necessary to repair the injury, but a plumber cannot repair the correct pipes when there is no structure in place.
Stem cell cultures can vary depending on several different factors. This could lead to completely different exosome messages being harvested from stem cell cultures, which would lead to the wrong type of therapy for the patient. If one exosome works for a patient with a specific disorder, the lab that produced the exosome therapy could have difficulty reproducing the same type of exosome.
Stem Cells Go a Step Further
When stem cells are in the body they will release the correct exosomes to go out and repair the necessary cells and tissues. The stem cells release the correct exosomes in the right order to facilitate tissue growth and repair. Exosomes play a large part in stem cell effectiveness, but using exosomes by themselves is a bit like sending a football team into a game with no playbook.
Some stem cell therapies are still unproven. Exosome therapies are even further behind stem cell therapies. They have a long way to go before they are going to be accepted by the FDA and the general public. Stem cells are the real deal and have all the necessary equipment to repair tissue and cells in the correct manner so that patients can fully recover.