It has been demonstrated that the biological effector of mesenchymal stem/stromal cells (MSCs) is their secretome, which is composed of a heterogeneous pool of bioactive molecules, partially enclosed in extracellular vesicles (EVs). Therefore, the MSC secretome (including EVs) has been recently proposed as possible alternative to MSC therapy. The secretome can be considered as a protein-based biotechnological product, it is probably safer compared with living/cycling cells, it presents virtually lower tumorigenic risk, and it can be handled, stored and sterilized as an Active Pharmaceutical/Principle Ingredient (API). EVs retain some structural and technological analogies with synthetic drug delivery systems (DDS), even if their potential clinical application is also limited by the absence of reproducible/scalable isolation methods and Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP)-compliant procedures. Notably, EVs secreted by MSCs preserve some of their parental cell features such as homing, immunomodulatory and regenerative potential. This review focuses on MSCs and their EVs as APIs, as well as DDS, considering their ability to reach inflamed and damaged tissues and to prolong the release of encapsulated drugs. Special attention is devoted to the illustration of innovative therapeutic approaches in which nanomedicine is successfully combined with stem cell therapy, thus creating a novel class of "next generation drug delivery systems."
- Drug delivery systems
- Extracellular vesicles
- Mesenchymal stem/stromal cells