New production process for therapeutic nanovesicles
Researchers at the University of Basel have developed an efficient method for the preparation of therapeutic nanovesicles, thereby fulfilling a key prerequisite for industrial production. The method also paves the way for research into areas such as immunotherapy treatments for cancer.
24 May 2023 | Christine Möller
Particles known as extracellular vesicles play a vital role in communication between cells and in many cell functions. Released by cells into their environment, these “membrane particles” consist of a cellular membrane carrying a cargo of specific signaling molecules, proteins, nucleic acids and lipids. Unfortunately, only tiny quantities of the vesicles are formed spontaneously by cells.
Extracellular vesicles for medical applications
The contents of these extracellular vesicles vary depending on the origin and condition of the cell, as do the proteins that are anchored to the vesicle surface. Researchers use these properties to develop new techniques for diagnosing cancer, for example, based on the analysis of extracellular vesicles isolated from blood samples.
With a diameter of 1 to 3 micrometers, these giant plasma membrane vesicles are far too big for therapeutic applications. In the newly developed process, they are therefore pressed through a filter membrane multiple times in order to reduce their size. “After multiple filter passes, we obtain a homogeneous solution of nano plasma membrane vesicles (nPMV) with a diameter of 120 nanometers – precisely what we need for subsequent applications,” explains Alter.
Different origin, different applications
The team of researchers then characterized these nPMVs and compared their size, homogeneity, and protein and lipid cargo with those of exosomes – currently the most commonly used extracellular vesicles. They also investigated how well the nPMVs interact with other cells. In these analyses, the nano plasma membrane vesicles showed similar properties to exosomes.
“Their specific cargo and the presence of membrane-bound markers derived from the parent cell line offers the possibility to use nPMVs for therapeutic purposes,” says Jörg Huwyler. “At present, we’re primarily thinking of a stimulation of the immune system – for example, in vaccination or in immunotherapy treatments for cancer.”