Extracellular vesicles and aging
Aging and the chronic diseases associated with aging place a tremendous burden on our healthcare system. As our world population ages dramatically over the next decades, this will only increase. Hence, there is a great need to discover fundamental mechanisms of aging to enable development of strategies for minimizing the impact of aging on our health and economy. There is general agreement that cell autonomous mechanisms contribute to aging. As cells accrue damage over time, they respond to it by triggering individual cell fate decisions that ultimately disrupt tissue homeostasis and thus increase risk of morbidity. However, there are numerous lines of evidence, including heterochronic parabiosis and plasma transfer, indicating that cell non-autonomous mechanisms are critically important for aging as well. In addition, senescent cells, which accumulate in tissues with age, can display a senescence-associated secretory phenotype (SASP) that contributes to driving aging and loss of tissue homeostasis through a non-cell autonomous mechanism(s). Given the diverse roles of blood-borne extracellular vesicles (EVs) in modulating not only the immune response, but also angiogenesis and tissue regeneration, they likely play a key role in modulating the aging process through cell non-autonomous mechanisms. The fact that senescent cells release more EVs and with a different composition suggests they contribute to the adverse effects of senescence on aging. In addition, the ability of EVs from functional progenitor cells to promote tissue regeneration suggests that stem cell-derived EVs could be used therapeutically to extend healthspan. This review focuses on the potential roles of EVs in aging, the potential of EV-based therapeutic applications for extending healthspan and the potential for use of circulating EVs as biomarkers of unhealthy aging.