Can exosomes be used as drug delivery vesicles?
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The inflammatory arthritis Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS) is linked to the human leucocyte antigen HLA-B27. HLA-B27 is thought to drive AS because it misfolds during assembly in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), inducing ER cell stress. Modulating HLA-B27 folding in the ER is therefore a therapeutic target pathway. The recent discovery of polymorphisms in the ER-resident peptidase ERAP1 that can impact on HLA-B27 and AS, makes ERAP1 one such target. Exosomes are small, typically 50-200 nm sized particles, formed in the endosomal recycling pathway, which can be released into the extracellular environment. Exosomes have a wide range of biological activities depending on the cell type of origin, and on the delivered cargo, which can include bio-active proteins, lipids, mRNA and miRNA. There is interest in the use of exosomes as drug delivery agents. Here, exosomes were studied as a delivery agent to modulate ERAP1, as a potential therapeutic tool for the treatment of AS. Exosomes, isolated from cell lines including CEM and Jurkat (T cell lineage), Jesthom (B cell lineage), U937 (monocyte lineage) and the epithelial HeLa cell line, were characterized by nanoparticle tracking analysis, flow cytometry and immunoblotting using markers including CD9, CD63, CD81 and TSG101. Differential expression of these markers in the immune cell lines indicated the complexity of defining exosomes. EVs were then tested using cell penetrating peptides, electroporation, lipid transfection and sonication for their ability to load FITC-siRNA or FITC-antibody as cargo. Significantly, post-loading RNase A or trypsin incubation demonstrated that many techniques do not lead to efficient cargo loading of exosomes. Sonication proved the most effective technique, with up to 30% efficiency. Loading of exosomes with ERAP1-targetted siRNA did not however lead to notable ERAP1 inhibition. The data indicates that external loading of exosomes with cargo remains a significant challenge in developing exosomes as therapeutic tools.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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