From structures to functions: insights into exosomes as promising drug delivery vehicles
Exosomes are small membrane vesicles secreted by most cell types, and appear ubiquitously in cell culture supernatants and body fluids. Increasing evidence supports that exosomes play important roles in intercellular communication, both locally and systemically, by transporting their contents such as proteins, lipids and RNAs between cells. Of particular interest for controlled drug delivery is that cell-derived exosomes offer the possibilities of overcoming biological barriers, thereby allowing the incorporated gene and drug to reach targeted tissue, which have been considerable challenges for synthetic carriers. Great research efforts have been dedicated to developing exosome-based drug delivery systems for the treatment of inflammatory diseases, degenerative disorders and cancer. In this review, we will describe the structural and functional properties of exosomes and emphasize current advances in the therapeutic applications of exosomes as drug delivery vehicles, followed by a discussion on current challenges and future perspectives.