Despite advances in intensive care, several neonatal conditions typically due to prematurity affect vital organs and are associated with high mortality and long-term morbidities. Current treatment strategies for these babies are only partially successful or are effective only in selected patients. Regenerative medicine has been shown to be a promising option for these conditions at an experimental level, but still warrants further exploration for the development of optimal treatment.
Although stem cell-based therapy has emerged as a treatment option, studies have shown that it is associated with potential risks and hazards, especially in the fragile population of babies. Recently, extracellular vesicles (EVs) have emerged as an attractive therapeutic alternative that holds great regenerative potential and is cell-free. EVs are nanosized particles endogenously produced by cells that mediate intercellular communication through the transfer of their cargo. Currently, EVs are garnering considerable attention as they are the key effectors of stem cell paracrine signaling and can epigenetically regulate target cell genes through the release of RNA species, such as microRNA.
Herein, we review the emerging literature on the therapeutic potential of EVs derived from different sources for the treatment of neonatal conditions that affect the brain, retinas, spine, lungs, and intestines and discuss the challenges for the translation of EVs into clinical practice.