Scientific Statement explains the endocrine roles of extracellular vesicles

19 May 2022

The importance of research into extracellular vesicles for understanding and treating certain endocrine disorders such as cancer and diabetes, has been detailed in a scientific statement. 

During the last decade, endocrine researchers have shown great interest in extracellular vesicles and their hormone-like role in cell-to-cell communication.

The Endocrine Society's statement provides insight into the functions of extracellular vesicles, which are secreted from all cells into biological fluids and carry endocrine signals that allow interactions between cells and distant sites in the body.

The University of Queensland Faculty of Medicine’s Associate Professor Carlos Salomon led an international team of key opinion leaders to develop the Endocrine Society’s scientific statement.

“We’re really excited about this new area of research that can help us better understand how people develop common endocrine conditions such as diabetes, obesity and cancer,” Dr Carlos Salomon said

“The statement highlights the likely uses of extracellular vesicles in detecting and monitoring disease progression and their role as next-generation drug delivery vehicles.

“Extracellular vesicles are small bubbles produced by cells, they are like handwritten letters in which cells can communicate and send signals to each other to maintain or modify their biological function.”

Extracellular vesicles can help researchers better understand how to diagnose endocrine-related conditions including cancer and predict its progression. The role of extracellular vesicles as a cancer biomarker may extend to predicting real-time response to therapy.

Recent studies have shown the potential of extracellular vesicles, particularly ones derived from stem cells, in treating diabetes. Research into the vesicles provides insights into the causes of insulin resistance and glucose intolerance in obesity.

Extracellular vesicles play an important role in the development of heart disease and could be useful for predicting risk. They also serve as biomarkers for high blood pressure and could have a therapeutic and blood pressure-lowering role.

“We hope this statement brings awareness to the significance of extracellular vesicles in endocrinology and encourages more research on their potential as biomarkers and therapeutics,” Dr Salomon said.

“Extracellular vesicles have the extraordinary ability to capture a snapshot of what’s going on inside the cell, providing opportunities to improve patient management and treatment through early and more accurate risk assessment and diagnosis.”

Other authors of this statement are from Harvard Medical School, University of Virginia, University of Texas, the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology in Singapore, the University of California-San Diego, Inoviq Limited, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, Purdue University, Utrecht University and UMC Utrecht in the Netherlands, Shandong University, and Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

The manuscript is published in Endocrine Reviews.