Theranostics 2021; 11(1):397-409. doi:10.7150/thno.50741

Research Paper

Progenitor cell-derived exosomes endowed with VEGF plasmids enhance osteogenic induction and vascular remodeling in large segmental bone defects

Yao Zha1,2#, Yawu Li1,2#, Tianyi Lin1,2, Jia Chen1,2, Shengmin Zhang1,2✉, Jianglin Wang1,2✉

1. Advanced Biomaterials and Tissue Engineering Center,Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan, 430074, P. R. China.
2. Department of Biomedical Engineering, College of Life Science and Technology, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan, 430074, P. R. China.
#These authors contributed equally to this work.

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Citation:
Zha Y, Li Y, Lin T, Chen J, Zhang S, Wang J. Progenitor cell-derived exosomes endowed with VEGF plasmids enhance osteogenic induction and vascular remodeling in large segmental bone defects. Theranostics 2021; 11(1):397-409. doi:10.7150/thno.50741. Available from https://www.thno.org/v11p0397.htm

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Abstract

Large segmental bone regeneration remains a great challenge due to the lack of vascularization in newly formed bone. Conventional strategies primarily combine bone scaffolds with seed cells and growth factors to modulate osteogenesis and angiogenesis. Nevertheless, cell-based therapies have some intrinsic issues regarding immunogenicity, tumorigenesis, bioactivity and off-the-shelf transplantation. Exosomes are nano-sized (50-200 nm) extracellular vesicles with a complex composition of proteins, nucleic acids and lipids, which are attractive as therapeutic nanoparticles for disease treatment. Exosomes also have huge potential as desirable drug/gene delivery vectors in the field of regenerative medicine due to their excellent biocompatibility and efficient cellular internalization.

Methods: We developed a cell-free tissue engineering system using functional exosomes in place of seed cells. Gene-activated engineered exosomes were constructed by using ATDC5-derived exosomes to encapsulate the VEGF gene. The specific exosomal anchor peptide CP05 acted as a flexible linker and effectively combined the engineered exosome nanoparticles with 3D-printed porous bone scaffolds.

Results: Our findings demonstrated that engineered exosomes play dual roles as an osteogenic matrix to induce the osteogenic differentiation of mesenchymal stem cells and as a gene vector to controllably release the VEGF gene to remodel the vascular system. In vivo evaluation further verified that the engineered exosome-mediated bone scaffolds could effectively induce the bulk of vascularized bone regeneration.

Conclusion: In our current work, we designed specifically engineered exosomes based on the requirements of vascularized bone repair in segmental bone defects. This work simultaneously illuminates the potential of functional exosomes in acellular tissue engineering.

Keywords: engineered exosome, VEGF gene, anchor peptide, 3D printing, vascularized osteogenesis