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Extracellular vesicles are small lipid-based membrane-bound entities shed by cells under both physiological and pathological conditions. Their discovery as intercellular communicators through transfer of nucleic acid- and protein-based cargos between cells locally and at distance in a highly specific manner has created recent excitement. The information they transport and their composition may vary depending on the cell of origin as well as the eliciting stimulus. Such sensitive changes in vesicle characteristics hold significant promise for the improved diagnosis of pathological conditions, including infections and neoplastic lesions in a minimally invasive way. Similarly, these cell-derived vesicles exhibit promising characteristics that could enhance drug targeting efficiencies. Recent developments in the field have aimed at studying EVs as novel drug carriers due to their natural composition, biological function and selective cell interaction. In this review, we discuss new research avenues in diagnostics and drug therapy based on extracellular vesicles. We show how cell-derived vesicles can be harvested and engineered to meet application-specific design requirements. We finally discuss potential risks encountered when translating extracellular vesicle based approaches into (pre)clinical applications.

Original publication




Journal article


Nano Today

Publication Date





397 - 409