In vitro models of exosome biology and toxicology: New frontiers in biomedical research

Emma C. Bowers, Abeer A.I. Hassanin, Kenneth S. Ramos

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Exosomes are secreted membrane-bound vesicles containing a cargo of curated nucleic acids, proteins, and lipids that can alter gene expression in recipient cells. Toxic agents can alter exosome synthesis and bioactive cargo composition, thus allowing exosomes to serve as biomarkers of exposure and response. While human and animal studies have identified exosome biomarkers of organ toxicity, in vitro models are ideal to examine biological mechanisms of exosome function. Here, we discuss the importance of exosomes in toxicology research and describe applications of in vitro models in advancing our understanding of their role in exposure-associated disease. This discussion of new research frontiers is in commemoration of the invaluable contributions of Dr. Daniel Acosta to the field of in vitro biology and toxicology. Emerging studies have implicated exosomes as mediators of neurodegeneration by shuttling pollutant-induced pathogenic proteins and miRNAs from afflicted neurons to neighboring cells. Exosomes also provide a mechanistic link between inhalation exposures and airway inflammation, remodeling, and systemic effects. Exosomes provide the means for toxic agents to initiate oncogenic transformation and create favorable tumor microenvironments. Furthermore, exosome-mediated drug delivery can alter drug pharmacologic profiles. Expansion in this field using in vitro models is essential to unlock the potential applications of exosome biology in toxicology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number104462
JournalToxicology in Vitro
StatePublished - Apr 2020


  • Biomarkers
  • Exosomes
  • Extracellular vesicles
  • In vitro models
  • Mechanism of action

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology


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