Overview and Update on Extracellular Vesicles: Considerations on Exosomes and Their Application in Modern Medicine

Extracellular Vesicles

Bella, Di, and Maria Antonietta. 2022. “Overview and Update on Extracellular Vesicles: Considerations on Exosomes and Their Application in Modern Medicine.” Biology 11 (6): 804. https://doi.org/10.3390/biology11060804.

In recent years, there has been a rapid growth in the knowledge of cell-secreted extracellular vesicle functions. They are membrane enclosed and loaded with proteins, nucleic acids, lipids, and other biomolecules. After being released into the extracellular environment, some of these vesicles are delivered to recipient cells; consequently, the target cell may undergo physiological or pathological changes. Thus, extracellular vesicles as biological nano-carriers, have a pivotal role in facilitating long-distance intercellular communication. Understanding the mechanisms that mediate this communication process is important not only for basic science but also in medicine. Indeed, extracellular vesicles are currently seen with immense interest in nanomedicine and precision medicine for their potential use in diagnostic, prognostic, and therapeutic applications. This paper aims to summarize the latest advances in the study of the smallest subtype among extracellular vesicles, the exosomes. The article is divided into several sections, focusing on exosomes’ nature, characteristics, and commonly used strategies and methodologies for their separation, characterization, and visualization. By searching an extended portion of the relevant literature, this work aims to give a quick outline of advances in exosomes’ extensive nanomedical applications. Moreover, considerations that require further investigations before translating them to clinical applications are summarized.

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Cigarette smoke (CS) represents one of the most relevant environmental risk factors for several chronic pathologies. Tissue damage caused by CS exposure is mediated, at least in part, by oxidative stress induced by its toxic and pro-oxidant components. Evidence demonstrates that extracellular vesicles (EVs) released by various cell types exposed to CS extract (CSE) are characterized by altered biochemical cargo and gained pathological properties. In the present study, we evaluated the content of oxidized proteins and phospholipid fatty acid profiles of EVs released by human bronchial epithelial BEAS-2B cells treated with CSE. This specific molecular characterization has hitherto not been performed. After confirmation that CSE reduces viability of BEAS-2B cells and elevates intracellular ROS levels, in a dose-dependent manner, we demonstrated that 24 h exposure at 1% CSE, a concentration that only slight modifies cell viability but increases ROS levels, was able to increase carbonylated protein levels in cells and released EVs. The release of oxidatively modified proteins via EVs might represent a mechanism used by cells to remove toxic proteins in order to avoid their intracellular overloading. Moreover, 1% CSE induced only few changes in the fatty acid asset in BEAS-2B cell membrane phospholipids, whereas several rearrangements were observed in EVs released by CSE-treated cells. The impact of changes in acyl chain composition of CSE-EVs accounted for the increased saturation levels of phospholipids, a membrane parameter that might influence EV stability, uptake and, at least in part, EV-mediated biological effects. The present in vitro study adds new information concerning the biochemical composition of CSE-related EVs, useful to predict their biological effects on target cells. Furthermore, the information regarding the presence of oxidized proteins and the specific membrane features of CSE-related EVs can be useful to define the utilization of circulating EVs as marker for diagnosing of CS-induced lung damage and/or CS-related diseases.

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