Extracellular Vesicles in Lung Disease

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Accumulating evidence suggests that extracellular vesicles (EVs) play a role in the pathogenesis of lung diseases. These vesicles include exosomes, ectosomes (ie, microparticles, extracellular vesicles, microvesicles, and shedding vesicles), and apoptotic bodies. Exosomes are generated by inward budding of the membrane (endocytosis), subsequent forming of multivesicular bodies, and release by exocytosis. Ectosomes are formed by outward blebbing from the plasma membrane and are then released by proteolytic cleavage from the cell surface. Apoptotic bodies are generated on apoptotic cell shrinkage and death. Extracellular vesicles are released when the cells are activated or undergo apoptosis under inflammatory conditions. The number and types of released EVs are different according to the pathophysiological status of the disease. Therefore, EVs can be novel biomarkers for various lung diseases. EVs contain several molecules, including proteins, mRNA, microRNA, and DNA; they transfer these molecules to distant recipient cells. Circulating EVs modify the targeted cells and influence the microenvironment of the lungs. For this unique capability, EVs are expected to be a new drug delivery system and a novel therapeutic target.

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