Nanotechnology Could Change the Future of Disease Treatment

Scientists highlight the potential use of exosomes to detect and treat diseases.

A newly released paper offers the most comprehensive overview of exosomes to date, indicating its significant potential to detect and treat disease.

Exosomes are tiny biological nanoparticles ranging from 30 to 130 nanometers in size. They communicate between cells, carrying proteins, lipids, DNA, and RNA. They also help drive biological processes.

In a commissioned paper published in Trends in Molecular Medicine, investigators showed that the potential medical benefits of nanoparticles can be divided into 3 broad categories: detecting disease by acting as disease-specific biomarkers; activating immune responses to boost immunity; and treating diseases by acting as a vehicle for drugs to target tumors directly.

Thus far, several studies have demonstrated the potential benefits of exosomes including improvement of prostate cancer testing, a small-cell lung cancer trial; stem cell-derived exosomes to strengthen heart muscles; regeneration of muscle and tissue; Parkinson’s disease; and diabetes.

The authors believe that exosomes as becoming increasingly promising, but more research needs to be done before they can be translated into new techniques and treatments.

“Our survey of research into exosomes shows clearly that they offer enormous potential as a basis for detecting and treating disease,” said author Steve Conlan. “Further studies are necessary to turn this research into clinical outcomes, but researchers and funders should be very encouraged by our findings. Our own research in Swansea is investigating the use of exosomes and exosome-like synthetic nanoparticles in combatting ovarian and endometrial cancer.

“Progress in this field depends on partnership. As the authorship of our own paper illustrates, researchers in different countries are increasingly working together in nanohealth. Swansea University has wider links with Houston and Portuguese-based researchers in the field. It’s also important to build partnerships outside academia, in particular, with government and companies in the fast-growing sector.”