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The Next Contender in Regenerative Medicine: Exosome Therapy

Be it the medical, or the medical spa community, regenerative medicine has officially entered the zeitgeist and shows no signs of slowing down. Our bodies are uniquely designed and capable of healing; exosome therapy taps into and expands that ability. Often geared towards degenerative conditions, this cutting-edge treatment can help with both acute and chronic conditions.

What is exosome therapy?

Most often compared to stem-cell treatments, exosome therapy utilizes extracellular vesicles found in nearly all eukaryotic fluids. That is to say, they are naturally occurring in organic life of all kinds, such as animal, plant, and fungal cells. Exosomes are lipid spheres released from cells that carry genetic information and protein to other cells. These small ‘bubbles’ released from stem cells have anti-inflammatory possibilities and can induce heightened levels of cytokines. When applied in a therapeutic manner, these so-called messenger particles can stimulate a desired response in the body. This lends directly to relief for patients with inflammation and degenerative joint disease.

Why isn’t this treatment more popular?

While the potential benefits of exosome therapy are vast, it has not yet been approved by the FDA. This means that all applications of exosome therapy are considered experimental. There are several companies working towards approval, along with expanded use cases beyond degenerative disease treatment. Codiak BioSciences is researching exosome-based drug applications, wherein directed RNA may be able to treat cancer patients more effectively. The thought is that exosomes have cellular membranes, as opposed to a synthetic polymer, and can be much better tolerated by the host.

How is this different from stem cell therapy?

While the two cells and their applications may sound similar, there are a number of striking differences between the two. The most impactful of these differences is found in their origin. Stem cells are found in various bodily tissues and can be isolated and grown in a laboratory. Stem cells also have the ability to replicate and develop into a variety of specialized cell types. Exosomes do not have this ability to replicate or transform, as they are generated by cells in the body with the express purpose of carrying information to another cell. As discussed previously, exosome therapy seeks to utilize our body’s natural healing ability by delivering ‘messages’ to specific parts of the body. Stem cell therapy focuses on repair and regeneration.