Exosomes in disease and regeneration: biological functions, diagnostics, and beneficial effects

Yun Lin, Johnathon D. Anderson, Lily M.A. Rahnama, Shenwen V. Gu, Anne A. Knowlton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Exosomes are a subtype of extracellular vesicles. They range from 30 to 150 nm in diameter and originate from intraluminal vesicles. Exosomes were first identified as the mechanism for releasing unnecessary molecules from reticulocytes as they matured to red blood cells. Since then, exosomes have been shown to be secreted by a broad spectrum of cells and play an important role in the cardiovascular system. Different stimuli are associated with increased exosome release and result in different exosome content. The release of harmful DNA and other molecules via exosomes has been proposed as a mechanism to maintain cellular homeostasis. Because exosomes contain parent cell-specific proteins on the membrane and in the cargo that is delivered to recipient cells, exosomes are potential diagnostic biomarkers of various types of diseases, including cardiovascular disease. As exosomes are readily taken up by other cells, stem cell-derived exosomes have been recognized as a potential cell-free regenerative therapy to repair not only the injured heart but other tissues as well. The objective of this review is to provide an overview of the biological functions of exosomes in heart disease and tissue regeneration. Therefore, state-of-the-art methods for exosome isolation and characterization, as well as approaches to assess exosome functional properties, are reviewed. Investigation of exosomes provides a new approach to the study of disease and biological processes. Exosomes provide a potential "liquid biopsy," as they are present in most, if not all, biological fluids that are released by a wide range of cell types.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)H1162-H1180
JournalAmerican journal of physiology. Heart and circulatory physiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2020


  • exosomes
  • methods
  • stem cells therapeutics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)


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