Exosomes are cell-derived vesicles that convey key elements with the potential to modulate intercellular communication. They are known to be secreted from all types of cells, and are crucial messengers that can regulate cellular processes by ‘trafficking’ molecules from cells of one tissue to another. The exosomal content has been shown to be broad, composed of different types of cytokines, growth factors, proteins, or nucleic acids. Besides messenger RNA (mRNA) they can also contain noncoding transcripts such as microRNAs (miRNAs), which are small endogenous cellular regulators of protein expression.
In diseases such as cancer, exosomes can facilitate tumor progression by altering their vesicular content and supplying the tumor niche with molecules that favor the progression of oncogenic processes such as proliferation, invasion and metastasis, or even drug resistance. The packaging of their molecular content is known to be tissue specific, a fact that makes them interesting tools in clinical diagnostics and ideal candidates for biomarkers. In the current report, the authors describe the main properties of exosomes and explain their involvement in processes such as cell differentiation and cell death. Furthermore, they emphasize the need of developing patient-targeted treatments by applying the conceptualization of exosomal-derived miRNA-based therapeutics.