Plant-Derived Extracellular Vesicles Offer a Promising Treatment for Irritable Bowel Disease


Repairing the intestinal epithelial barrier is paramount in the treatment of IBD.

Plant-derived extracellular vesicles (PDEVs) could become a novel and effective treatment for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), according to investigators who published a review discussing the therapeutic potential of PDEVs in the Journal of Advanced Research. PDEVs can reduce inflammation and repair intestinal epithelial barrier damage to improve health outcomes, according to investigators.

Credit: sdecoret -

Credit: sdecoret -

“An intact intestinal epithelial barrier prevents harmful substances (eg, bacteria and endotoxins) from entering human tissues, organs, and microcirculation,” wrote the study authors. “During IBD, inflammation disrupts [the intestinal epithelial barrier’s] structure and impairs the barrier function, leading to the dysregulation of the intestinal mucosal barrier.”

IBD is an incurable heterogeneous and chronic autoimmune disease of the gastrointestinal tract. There are 3 types of IBD: Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and unspecified IBD. Current therapies (amino salicylates, corticosteroids, immunomodulators, and biologics) are costly, and many patients experience treatment resistance. They are also associated with significant adverse events and can reduce quality of life.

PDEVs have high therapeutic potential against IBD. They are membrane vesicles coated with a phospholipid bilayer, and they are quite a safe treatment compared to other IBD-targeting therapeutics. PDEVs can be naturally sourced from ginger, ginseng, aloe, and lemon.

In the review—which disseminates advances in PDEVs for the treatment of IBD and possible mechanisms of action—investigators found that PDEVs can mitigate inflammatory immune responses that contribute to IBD pathology.

PDEVs also promote intestinal epithelial barrier repair by promoting intestinal mucosa growth. A healthy mucosal lining can reduce intestinal permeability, which can then reduce tissue damage and the amount of toxins that are able to enter the blood. PDEVs can also regulate the gut microbiome composition by promoting community diversity and preventing the growth ofpathogenic bacteria that can cause intestinal inflammation.

Key Takeaways

1. Plant-derived extracellular vesicles (PDEVs) offer a promising, safe treatment for inflammatory bowel disease by reducing inflammation and repairing intestinal barriers.

2. PDEVs are extracted from plants like ginger and ginseng, and they may regulate gut microbiota by improving the delivery of IBD drugs.

3. There are challenges associated with extracting and storing PDEVs, and more research is needed to optimize their therapeutic application.

In addition, PDEVs can act as a novel drug delivery system. Already low-toxic and stable, they can boost the efficacy of other IBD therapies by “[promoting] the absorption and penetration of drugs, thus enhancing the therapeutic effect,” authors wrote. They can also reduce unwarranted adverse effects associated with these other medications.

While PDEVs have shown promise for a variety of conditions, there are some drawbacks. First, it is difficult to extract PDEVs. It is also a challenge to get highly concentrated, high-yield, and pure PDEVs, and store them. Moreso, most PDEVs degrade in the upper digestive tract, which limits the amount and types that are available to use.

Future studies can look at improving the extraction of pure and highly concentrated PDEVs and look at how the body absorbs and metabolizes them. Studies should also highlight drugs that regulate the intestinal epithelial barrier and improve microbiota function to treat IBD, according to investigators.

“PDEVs show a wide range of therapeutic possibilities that may be beneficial to patients with IBD and may ultimately represent the next generation of drugs,” wrote authors in the article.


Li J, Luo T, Wang D, et al. Therapeutic application and potential mechanism of plant-derived extracellular vesicles in inflammatory bowel disease. Journ of Advanc Resear. 2024. doi:10.1016/j.jare.2024.01.035

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