An inexpensive, accessible and non-invasive therapy for diseases and injuries of the brain may be slowly emerging: tiny particles called extracellular vesicles (EVs). Unlike stem cell therapies for repairing brain damage — which can be unsafe when tested in humans — EVs may safely regenerate brain cells and reduce inflammation, according to a recent study conducted by researchers at the Texas A&M University College of Medicine.
The study, published in the Journal of Extracellular Vesicles, found that EVs derived from stem cells in the nervous system can repair damaged cells and block proteins that cause both acute and chronic brain inflammation. EVs, which under an electron microscope look like rain droplets on a windowpane, help with communication between cells. Pinching off from a cell into nano-sized globules, EVs then latch onto other cells and share their contents. Working like microscopic messenger pigeons between cells, EVs might be able to quickly deliver brain therapies.
But before this study was conducted in animal models, little was known about how to best separate therapeutic EVs from neural stem cells. Likewise, research had not pinpointed exactly which proteins and microRNAs (small fragments of RNA that regulate the production of proteins) the EVs