What are Exosomes?
Exosomes are microscopic bubbles packed full of proteins and genetic material such as DNA and RNA. When released from cells they allow those cells to communicate with each other. The molecules and genetic material direct cell behavior such as cell growth or differentiation.
In the past decade, interest in exosomes has exploded for several reasons. First, they allow communication between cells and aid in tissue repair and regeneration. Second, they have been proposed to be useful vehicles for drugs and could be used as therapeutic agents. Third, they can be useful biomarkers of disease which aids in diagnoses and prognosis.
What is the difference between Exosomes and Stem Cells?
Stem cells are living things that have the ability to renew themselves and to turn into different kinds of cells. They contain thousands of molecules known to decrease inflammation, regenerate tissue and fight infection. Exosomes are substances secreted by all cells, including stem cells.
During the repair process, different kinds of cells or molecules are needed at the different stages of healing. The stem cells act like the conductor in an orchestra, directing cells where to go and what to do. They organize the complex symphony of cellular activity that leads to tissue healing. Different types of exosomes are produced by the stem cells and released at different times depending upon the needs of the body.
Can we use manufactured products that contain exosomes to treat orthopedic conditions?
There are currently no FDA approved exosome products. These products require FDA approval before they can be marketed for use in patients. Their safety and efficacy have not yet been proven. Although they have the potential to repair injuries and regenerate tissues, there is still much to be learned about their behavior in the body. Patients should avoid exosomes until research studies prove they are safe and effective.