Stem cell therapy for osteoarthritis (OA) has been heavily researched. Numerous studies demonstrate that stem cells are safe and effective in the treatment of OA. With the advancement of stem cell research, extracellular vesicles (EVs) derived from stem cells have been discovered as a promising therapy for the treatment of OA due to their similar therapeutic function of stem cells.
EVs are a group of vesicles used by stem cells for cell-to-cell communication and are considered to be responsible for the therapeutic effects of stem cells. EVs are composed of primarily two subtypes of vesicles; exosomes and microvesicles.
Since exosomes reflect the therapeutic actions of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) but without the potential safety concerns related to MSC therapy such as tumor formation, immune system reaction, and embolism, exosomes are a promising alternative treatment to stem cell based therapies. Furthermore, unlike gene therapy and stem cell therapy, exosomes are not considered to be advanced therapy medicinal products by the FDA and are not considered high risk biological drugs.
This animal study entitled “Exosomes from embryonic mesenchymal stem cells alleviate osteoarthritis through balancing synthesis and degradation of cartilage extracellular matrix” investigated the therapeutic role of exosomes derived from human embryonic stem cell-induced mesenchymal stem cells (ESC-MSCs) in OA.
Exosomes were isolated from ESC-MSCs and then intra-articularly injected into the knee joint of mice that previously had destabilization surgery of the medial meniscus in order to model OA. Cartilage destruction and extracellular matrix degradation was evaluated 8 weeks later.
Injections of exosomes were shown to impede the destruction of cartilage in the OA model and maintain chondrocyte quality by increasing type 2 collagen synthesis.
The authors concluded that “The exosomes from ESC-MSCs exert a beneficial therapeutic effect on OA by balancing the synthesis and degradation of chondrocyte extracellular matrix (ECM), which in turn provides a new target for OA drug and drug-delivery system development.”