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Acta Pharm Sin B. 2016 Jul;6(4):287-96. doi: 10.1016/j.apsb.2016.02.001. Epub 2016 Mar 8.

Exosomes as therapeutic drug carriers and delivery vehicles across biological membranes: current perspectives and future challenges.

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Manchester University, College of Pharmacy, Natural & Health Sciences, Fort Wayne, IN 46845, USA.


Exosomes are small intracellular membrane-based vesicles with different compositions that are involved in several biological and pathological processes. The exploitation of exosomes as drug delivery vehicles offers important advantages compared to other nanoparticulate drug delivery systems such as liposomes and polymeric nanoparticles; exosomes are non-immunogenic in nature due to similar composition as body׳s own cells. In this article, the origin and structure of exosomes as well as their biological functions are outlined. We will then focus on specific applications of exosomes as drug delivery systems in pharmaceutical drug development. An overview of the advantages and challenges faced when using exosomes as a pharmaceutical drug delivery vehicles will also be discussed.


ALIX, ALG-2 interacting protein X; ATPase, adenosine triphosphatase; BBB, blood–brain barrier; CCK-8, cell counting kit-8; CD, cluster of differentiation; DIL, 1,1′-dioctadecyl-3,3,3′,3′-tetramethylindocarbocyanine perchlorate; DNA, deoxyribonucleic acid; Drug delivery systems; EGF, epidermal growth factor; EGFR, epidermal growth factor receptor; ESCRT, endosomal sorting complexes required for transport; EV, extracellular vesicle; EpCAM, epithelial cell adhesion molecule; Exosomes; Extracellular vesicles; HEK293, human embryonic kidney cell line 293; HIV, human immunodeficiency virus; HMGA2, high-mobility group AT-hook protein; HeLa, Henrietta Lacks cells; Hsp, heat shock proteins; IL-6, interleukin-6; ILVs, intraluminal vesicles; LPS, lipopolysaccharides; MAPK-1, mitogen-activated protein kinase 1; MHC, major histocompatibility complex; MPS, mononuclear phagocyte system; MVB, multi-vesicular body biogenesis; Nanocarrier; PBMC, peripheral blood mononuclear cells; PD, Parkinson’s disease; PEG, polyethylene glycol; RNA, ribonucleic acid; ROS, reactive oxygen species; RPE1, retinal pigment epithelial cells 1; TNF-α, tumor necrosis factor α; TSG101, tumor susceptibility gene 101; VPS4, vacuolar protein sorting-associated protein 4; kRAS, Kirsten rat sarcoma; mRNA, messenger RNA; miRNA, micro RNA; siRNA, small interference RNA

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