This summer, the 2013 MIT iGEM team worked to engineer exosome mediated cell-cell communication. In vivo cell-cell communication is vital for pattern formation, organ development, coordinated responses to environmental changes, and the maintenance of an organism (Bacchus, 2012)
We demonstrated that exosomes can be engineered to transport protein and miRNA signals of interest. These signals remain functional and can actuate a response in a receiver cell. By co-culturing sender and receiver cells, we have demonstrated exosome mediated unidirectional cell-cell communication.
Exosomes provide an innovative means of engineering cell-cell communication that can have exciting application in drug testing and development. Tissue engineers are currently working to develop organoids small tissue structures that recapitulate the behavior of organs in vitro (Lancaster, 2013). Organoids can be used to test drugs more rigorously in a human-like context rather than relying solely on animal models. Thus drugs can be developed with a better understanding of their toxicity and efficacy. These multicellular structures require cell-cell communication, and our exosome mediated communication system could serve as an enabling technology for organoid development
Lancaster, Madeline et al. Cerebral organoids model human brain development and microcephaly. Nature 501, 373–379 (2013) Bacchus, William et al. Synthetic two-way communication between mammalian cells. Nat. Biotechnol. 30, 991–996 (2012)