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Review Article

Korean J Physiol Pharmacol 2018; 22(2): 113-125

Published online March 1, 2018 https://doi.org/10.4196/kjpp.2018.22.2.113

Copyright © The Korean Journal of Physiology & Pharmacology.

The potential theragnostic (diagnostic+therapeutic) application of exosomes in diverse biomedical fields

Yong-Seok Kim1, Jae-Sung Ahn2, Semi Kim2, Hyun-Jin Kim2, Shin-Hee Kim2, and Ju-Seop Kang2,*

1Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, College of Medicine, Seoul 04763, 2Department of Pharmacology and Clinical Pharmacology Laboratory, College of Medicine, Hanyang University, Seoul 04763, Korea

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0) which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Exosomes are membranous vesicles of 30-150 nm in diameter that are derived from the exocytosis of the intraluminal vesicles of many cell types including immune cells, stem cells, cardiovascular cells and tumor cells. Exosomes participate in intercellular communication by delivering their contents to recipient cells, with or without direct contact between cells, and thereby influence physiological and pathological processes. They are present in various body fluids and contain proteins, nucleic acids, lipids, and microRNAs that can be transported to surrounding cells. Theragnosis is a concept in next-generation medicine that simultaneously combines accurate diagnostics with therapeutic effects. Molecular components in exosomes have been found to be related to certain diseases and treatment responses, indicating that they may have applications in diagnosis via molecular imaging and biomarker detection. In addition, recent studies have reported that exosomes have immunotherapeutic applications or can act as a drug delivery system for targeted therapies with drugs and biomolecules. In this review, we describe the formation, structure, and physiological roles of exosomes. We also discuss their roles in the pathogenesis and progression of diseases including neurodegenerative diseases, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer. The potential applications of exosomes for theragnostic purposes in various diseases are also discussed. This review summarizes the current knowledge about the physiological and pathological roles of exosomes as well as their diagnostic and therapeutic uses, including emerging exosome-based therapies that could not be applied until now.

Keywords: Biomarker, Biomedical field, Drug delivery system, Exosome, Theragnostics