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Development of Extracellular Vesicle Therapeutics: Challenges, Considerations, and Opportunities

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Extracellular vesicles (EVs) hold great promise as therapeutic modalities due to their endogenous characteristics, however, further bioengineering refinement is required to address clinical and commercial limitations. Clinical applications of EV-based therapeutics are being trialed in immunomodulation, tissue regeneration and recovery, and as delivery vectors for combination therapies. Native/biological EVs possess diverse endogenous properties that offer stability and facilitate crossing of biological barriers for delivery of molecular cargo to cells, acting as a form of intercellular communication to regulate function and phenotype. Moreover, EVs are important components of paracrine signaling in stem/progenitor cell-based therapies, are employed as standalone therapies, and can be used as a drug delivery system. Despite remarkable utility of native/biological EVs, they can be improved using bio/engineering approaches to further therapeutic potential. EVs can be engineered to harbor specific pharmaceutical content, enhance their stability, and modify surface epitopes for improved tropism and targeting to cells and tissues in vivo. Limitations currently challenging the full realization of their therapeutic utility include scalability and standardization of generation, molecular characterization for design and regulation, therapeutic potency assessment, and targeted delivery. The fields’ utilization of advanced technologies (imaging, quantitative analyses, multi-omics, labeling/live-cell reporters), and utility of biocompatible natural sources for producing EVs (plants, bacteria, milk) will play an important role in overcoming these limitations. Advancements in EV engineering methodologies and design will facilitate the development of EV-based therapeutics, revolutionizing the current pharmaceutical landscape.


This work was supported by National Health and Medical Research Council project grant (DG: #1139489 and 1057741), and Helen Amelia Hains Fellowship (DG). This work is supported by the Victorian Government's Operational Infrastructure Support Program. BC is supported by an Australian Government Training Program (RTP) scholarship and Baker Institute Bright Sparks Scholarship Top Up. JL and QP are supported by joint Baker Institute-La Trobe University Research Training Program scholarships.


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Frontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology



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Frontiers Media S.A.



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© 2021 Claridge, Lozano, Poh and Greening. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.