Exosomes, nanosized membrane vesicles secreted by cardiac progenitor cells (Exo-CPC), inhibit cardiomyocyte apoptosis under stress conditions, promote angiogenesis in vitro, and prevent the early decline in cardiac function after myocardial infarction in vivo in preclinical rat models. The recognition of exosome-mediated effects has moved attempts at developing cell-free approaches for cardiac repair. Such approaches offer major advantages including the fact that exosomes can be stored as ready-to-use agents and delivered to patients with acute coronary syndromes.
Researchers from the Fondazione Cardiocentro Ticino have developed a good manufacturing practice (GMP)-grade method for the large-scale preparation of Exo-CPC as a medicinal product, for a future clinical translation. A GMP-compliant manufacturing method was set up, based on large-scale cell culture in xeno-free conditions, collection of up to 8 l of exosome-containing conditioned medium and isolation of Exo-CPC through tangential flow filtration. Quality control tests were developed and carried out to evaluate safety, identity, and potency of both cardiac progenitor cells (CPC) as cell source and Exo-CPC as final product (GMP-Exo-CPC). CPC, cultured in xeno-free conditions, showed a lower doubling-time than observed in research-grade condition, while producing exosomes with similar features. Cells showed the typical phenotype of mesenchymal progenitor cells (CD73/CD90/CD105 positive, CD14/CD20/CD34/CD45/HLA-DR negative), and expressed mesodermal (TBX5/TBX18) and cardiac-specific (GATA4/MESP1) transcription factors. Purified GMP-Exo-CPC showed the typical nanoparticle tracking analysis profile and expressed main exosome markers (CD9/CD63/CD81/TSG101). The GMP manufacturing method guaranteed high exosome yield (>1013 particles) and consistent removal (≥97%) of contaminating proteins. The resulting GMP-Exo-CPC were tested for safety, purity, identity, and potency in vitro, showing functional anti-apoptotic and pro-angiogenic activity. The therapeutic efficacy was validated in vivo in rats, where GMP-Exo-CPC ameliorated heart function after myocardial infarction. This standardized production method and testing strategy for large-scale manufacturing of GMP-Exo-CPC opens new perspectives for reliable human therapeutic applications for acute myocardial infarction syndrome and can be easily applied to other cell sources for different therapeutic areas.
Large-scale GMP-Exo-CPC production chart. The upstream and downstream processes are grouped by the dotted boxes.