Story at a glance

  • A novel experiment in mice suggests potential for using existing structures formed by cell membranes to treat inflammation.
  • Experts hope that this technique could also be used to deliver drugs in a specific and targeted way.
  • The new approach could be used for many diseases.

Extracellular vesicles are formed when the cell membrane encircles some contents of the cell and breaks off into its own “bubble.” In this way, the cell can excrete materials, which can then be transported to other cells in the area or in other parts of the body. These “bubbles” are naturally found in bodily fluids and can deliver fatty acids, proteins and genetic material to tissues at different parts of the body including the blood-brain barrier. Researchers are investigating whether they can use extracellular vesicles (EVs) to deliver therapeutic substances and be given as drugs to patients.

In a study published in the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering, a team of researchers tests out their technology in animal models. They focused on systemic inflammation and developed EVs that have two different decoy protein receptors on their surfaces.

In experiments with mice who have sepsis, multiple sclerosis (MS) and intestinal inflammation, the team tested their EVs and found they were able to reduce the inflammatory response.

“We used different methods to optimise the expression of receptors and tested the different variants of EVs in inflammatory cell models to identify which strategy gave the greatest anti-inflammatory effect,” said Dhanu Gupta, one of the authors of the study, in a press release.


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The EV treatment greatly improved survival for the mice with sepsis. For mice with MS, there was significant reduction in symptoms associated with MS flare-ups. The mice with intestinal inflammation also had increased survival.

“Our findings are an important step in the right direction and demonstrate that EVs can be a promising treatment for inflammation, but the technique also has great potential for many other diseases,” said Samir EL Andaloussi, another author of the study, in the press release.


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Published on Oct 12, 2021