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Embryonic stem cells (ESCs) can differentiate into all cell types of the body and, therefore, hold tremendous promise for cell-based regenerative medicine therapies. One significant challenge that should be addressed before using ESCs in the clinic is to improve methods of efficiently and effectively directing the differentiation of this heterogeneous cell population. The work presented here examines the potential of harnessing naturally derived extracellular vesicles to deliver genetic material from mature cells to undifferentiated ESCs for the purpose of manipulating stem cell fate. Vesicles were isolated from preosteoblast cells and were found to be ∼170 nm in diameter and to express the CD40 surface marker. Multiple interactions were visualized between vesicles and ESCs using confocal microscopy, and no significant difference in cell viability was noted. Incubation with vesicles caused significant changes in ESC gene expression, including persistence of pluripotent gene levels as well as increased neurectoderm differentiation. Genetic cargo of the vesicles as well as the cells from which they were derived were examined using a small microRNA (miRNA) gene array. Interestingly, ∼20% of the examined miRNAs were increased more than twofold in the vesicles compared with preosteoblast cells. Together, these results suggest that extracellular vesicles may be utilized as a novel method of directing stem cell differentiation. Future work examining methods for controlled delivery of vesicles may improve the clinical potential of these physiological liposomes for therapeutic applications.

Original publication




Journal article


Stem Cells Dev

Publication Date





1625 - 1635


Animals, Cell Differentiation, Cell Survival, Embryonic Stem Cells, Gene Transfer Techniques, Genetic Therapy, Liposomes, Mice, MicroRNAs, Nanoparticles, Osteoblasts