Exosomes: What are they?
By Causenta Wellness
Exosomes may sound other worldly, but they are actually extracellular vesicles that are released from cells when the intermediate endocytic compartment, the multivesicular body (MVB), and the plasma membrane fuse together.
In plain English, they are part of cell that looks like a bubble. They were first discovered more than 30 years ago and were largely ignored since they were thought to have no real function in the cell.
Research suggests exosomes are ‘messengers’
“More recently, research has shown that these ‘garbage bubbles’ actually house messenger RNA – basically instructions on what the cell should do,” says Dr. Tom Incledon, Founder & CEO of Causenta. “The instructions found in exosomes tell cells how to repair damage.”
In an animal study that was conducted to further understand exosomes, the blood of a young, healthy animal was infused with that of an older, sick animal. “When the blood mingled, the disease and aging from the older, sick animal was treated without medications or other treatments,” says Incledon.
“The researchers weren’t sure what was making the improvements, but after additional testing, the thinking is that exosomes told the sick cells how to repair themselves, thus eliminating disease.”
What makes exosomes special?
There are three specific elements of exosomes that make them especially unique in understanding disease development and treatment:
- First, they provide a means of intercellular communication with instructions for repairing damage to cells.
- Second, in the past decade, it has been discovered that exosomes play a role in the spread of proteins, lipids, mRNA, miRNA and DNA as contributing factors in the development of several diseases.
- Third, exosomes have been seen as useful conduits for drugs because they are composed of cell membranes, rather than synthetic polymers, and as such are better tolerated by the body.
“It is important to note that exosomes can be both good and bad,” says Incledon. “For instance, my exosomes have instructions on how to be arthritic, so if they were harvested and placed into a healthy body with no arthritis, they could harm that person and reinstruct healthy cells.”
Where do exosomes come from?
Exosomes are secreted by most cell types and contribute to functions including tissue repair, neural communication, and the transfer of pathogenic proteins. “They can be used to treat bone, cartilage, the nervous system, brain, and heart,” says Incledon.
Exosomes are found throughout the body and are reproduced every day, so there is no ethical dilemma with harvesting them.
“Based on studies, if you could take exosomes from younger people and infuse them into older people, you could reverse the damage people experience with aging,” says Incledon. “This technology could eliminate the need for opioids and other drugs to eliminate joint pain because treatment moves past just blocking pain; it will repair cell functionality and help with movement and quality of life.”
What can you do with exosomes?
Exosomes show great promise in treating joint diseases, including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, osteonecrosis (a disease caused by reduced blood flow to bones in the joints that prevents new bone from being generated), and other similar conditions.
Exosomes are a promising therapy for joint pain treatment because of their small size, stability, biologically active content, and ability to be used with specific targeting as a natural delivery system.
“Unlike typical delivery systems such as liposomes, we think exosomes can avoid degradation as they travel to an area of concern,” says Incledon. “They can also travel through barriers and deliver cargo directly into the cytoplasm.” Exosomes from stem cells may also be able to delay disease progression.
How to exosomes alleviate the pain of arthritis?
Exosomes found in the blood can also have diagnostic value in the early stages of disease or for understanding more complicated conditions of joint diseases. “Bad exosomes from diseased cells in your body located in fluid between the joints can lead to inflammation, degeneration of cartilage, and destruction of joints,” says Incledon. “This is what we see in patients with arthritis, but if we can replace these exosomes with healthy ones, we can eliminate joint pain and repair the damage.”
As more research is done around exosome treatments and the technology is expanded, customizing treatment could be possible. “I think we will see 3D printing of exosomes,” says Incledon. “What would be great about this is that people could get the exact type of exosome they need to repair the damage they have. If you break a bone, your need a different type of exosome than if you have a brain injury.”
How do you administer exosomes to people?
There are several ways to administer exosomes to patients. Each manner has a benefit based on the results you are trying to achieve. Regardless of the delivery method, the exosomes are extracted from a vial of serum and about a teaspoon of exosomes are injected by a physician to an area of pain.
“The potential with exosome injections is that you can treat conditions you aren’t even aware of,” says Incledon. “You can do injections as a preventive measure, before joint pain ever begins, and take your health to a whole new level.”
- Intravenous: This method involves placing a catheter (IV) into a blood vessel in the arm, which directly places exosomes into your circulatory system. This allows for the exosomes to move around the body. The benefit to this method is that people are familiar with IVs, so it is less scary. Also, because the exosomes will come into contact with various organs in the body, this method will help repair damage you may not know about. “We think it will restore hair, eliminate age spots, and other signs of aging,” says Incledon. “This technology is going to change certain types of plastic surgery like hair restoration because exosomes can help cells create new hair follicles naturally.”
- Intra-articular: This is when exosomes are injected straight into the joint space, which is a cavity between the bones. Synovial fluid is found in this space and the exosomes move around the joint and find the damaged areas. “One concern with this method is a question about whether or not enough nutrients can get into this space to keep the new cells healthy,” says Incledon. “One way to overcome this is to pair exosomes with additional materials to create a scaffolding to help the exosomes work better and remain in the joint space.”
- Intramuscular: For torn muscles, this injection straight into the muscle is good option for exosome treatment. Results are very fast with this method. “For patients with fibromyalgia, intramuscular injections may cause initial discomfort, but will be worth the pain based on the relief they will feel after treatment,” says Incledon. “For athletes who otherwise are healthy, but experienced an injury, this method won’t bother them at all.” hu
- Intraosseous: “This is a particularly brilliant strategy for exosome delivery,” says Incledon. The physician injects the needle through the outside layer of the bone and into the bone marrow to leverage the network of marrow. “It is hard to treat arthritis and we have always tried to treat it from the outside in,” says Incledon. “Intraosseous injection of exosomes allows us to treat arthritis from the inside out; the results are very fast and seem to be permanent in nature.”
- Intra-canal: This method gives access to the brain without being invasive. The injection of exosomes is made in the cervical vertebra – in this case the C2 – where the exosomes can gain access to the spinal fluid and travel to the brain. “For patients with brain injury, spinal cord injury, ALS, Alzheimer’s, or Parkinson’s, exosomes that can impact your brain with little risk could be a game-changer in treatment,” says Incledon.
- Interstitial: These injections are made into the spaces between body cavities. This method may also have larger effects around the body.
Dr. Tom’s experience with exosomes
Dr. Tom recently treated his own joint damage, arthritis, bone spurs, and torn meniscus with exosomes. “I had nine MRIs, so I would know where all the damage was and what types of issues I had so the doctor could best treat me,” says Incledon. “I did it all in one day to save time and tried all of the methods of administration.”
Now, back in the gym, Dr. Tom is feeling better than ever and is able to lift more weight than before. “I am feeling great and have almost no pain,” says Incledon. “I have substantial damage to my joints, so am going to have another round of treatments soon, but for those with less damage, I think one treatment can eliminate joint pain and repair arthritic damage in the body.”
If you are interested in learning more about how exosomes can treat your joint pain and arthritis, schedule a complimentary 30-minute consultation today. We look forward to helping you on your path to feeling your best and achieving your wellness goals.