The revolutionary potential of exosomes in combating skin aging

Exosomes, the tiny messengers of cellular communication, wield remarkable power in addressing the visible signs of aging. By understanding their interactions with skin cells, we explore their role in promoting a youthful complexion.


1. What are exosomes

Exosomes are nano vesicles, typically 30–200 nanometers in diameter, containing a variety of bioactive substances, including proteins, lipids, growth factors and nucleic acids, protected within a bilayer lipid membrane. They are considered an important subcategory of extracellular vesicles (ECVs) and are released by almost all types of cells, subsequentially expressing different characteristics, according to the cell from which they are released. Exosomes play a crucial role in many biological processes including cell-to-cell communication, tissue repair, and immune system modulation. (1),(2)


2. Formation of Exosomes:

Initially, endosomes are formed by the invagination of the cell membrane in the early stage. Then, the bioactive substances begin to accumulate in the early sorting endosomes (ESEs). Under the control of ESCRT (Endosomal Sorting Complex Required for Transport) complex and other related proteins required for transport, the early endosomes become late sorting endosomes (LSEs). LSEs ultimately form multivesicular bodies (MVBs) after a second indentation. After MVBs fuse with the cell membrane, the substances inside the cells are released to the outside in the form of vesicles. These vesicles are exosomes (Figure 1). (3) The formation of exosomes is diversified, and the exact mechanism remains controversial. (4), (3)


Figure 1. Biogenesis of exosomes and their components. (3)



3. Types of Exosomes

At present time, exosomes are classified mainly according to the cell source and are divided into natural exosomes and engineered exosomes based on whether they have been artificially modified. Natural exosomes are then classified into animal-derived and plant-derived exosomes. Plant-derived exosomes have been shown to possess similar structures to mammalian exosomes. Almost all types of cells can produce exosomes, including macrophages, dendritic cells (DCs), mesenchymal stem cells, epithelial cells, platelets, lymphocytes, and fibroblasts. Exosomes are also generated in tumor settings, which have garnered significant interest in cancer research due to the high content of exosomes released by tumor cells, and exosomes’ surface-specific antigens reflecting the donor cells’ characteristics. Consequently, tumor exosomes serve as crucial monitors in understanding tumor growth, metastasis, and immune modulation. (4), (5)


4. The therapeutic value of exosomes

Exosomes possess therapeutic potential by modulating cellular microenvironments, regulating gene expression, and promoting cell differentiation, which positively influences skin health. Exosomes emerge as a robust therapeutic solution capable of addressing multiple concerns, including scar improvement, pigment correction, skin rejuvenation, and hair loss recovery. Their recent application in these therapies underscores their versatility and efficacy in enhancing skin health. (2), (6)


4.1. Wound healing

Skin wound healing involves a multifaceted process encompassing inflammation, epithelialization, wound contraction, collagen deposition, and remodelling. Impaired healing, observed in trauma or chronic diseases, results in scar formation and delayed recovery due to disruptions in dermal fibroblast and epidermal keratinocyte functions. Exosomes, through promoting angiogenesis, modulating immune responses, and fostering tissue regeneration, offer innovative avenues for enhancing wound healing processes by enabling intercellular communication among skin cell types. (2), (6)


4.2. Skin rejuvenation and pigmentation

Skin aging manifests as structural and functional changes resulting from intrinsic and extrinsic factors, notably UV radiation exposure leading to photoaging. Dermal fibroblasts, responsible for synthesizing structural components like collagen, suffer transformations in number, proliferation, and collagen synthesis during the aging process. Exosomes, by facilitating intercellular communication, have emerged as potent tool to address aging-related skin concerns. Exosomes derived from stem cells, particularly from human-induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) and embryonic stem cells (ESCs), exhibit anti-senescence effects by regulating fibroblast markers and collagen expression.
In pigmentation regulation, keratinocyte-secreted exosomes influence melanocyte activity and skin colour, suggesting exosomes as key players in skin homeostasis and pigmentation control. (2), (6)


4.3. Hair growth

Hair growth, impacted by aging, diseases, and medications, involves dynamic hair follicle phases of growth, regression, and regeneration. Essential for this process are hair follicle stem cells (HFSCs) and dermal papilla cells (DPCs), crucial for interventions like minoxidil, finasteride, and hair transplant surgery. Recent studies explore exosomes’ role, particularly DPC-derived exosomes, in regulating hair growth by enhancing follicle cycle stages, stimulating cell proliferation, and upregulating key signalling molecules. Innovative approaches, including combining exosomes with biomaterials or drug delivery systems, offer promising, minimally invasive options for hair regrowth therapy, representing a cell-free strategy for hair loss treatment. (2), (6), (7)


In conclusion, exosomes offer a groundbreaking pathway in cosmetic science, demonstrating their capacity to modulate critical cellular processes essential for skin health and rejuvenation. Nonetheless, the storage of exosomes remains a challenge as they are highly susceptible to environmental factors, leading to diminished efficacy and a shorter shelf life. The intricate nature of exosomes, coupled with their varying compositions based on cell source, complicates the establishment of a standardized storage method. Further research is necessary to overcome these storage challenges and optimize conditions for maintaining exosome stability, thereby unlocking their full therapeutic potential in cosmetic applications.


1. The Potential Role of Exosomes in Aesthetic Plastic Surgery: A Review of Current Literature. Ku, Ying C. BS*, et al. 2023, Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery-Global Open.
2. Therapeutic Values of Exosomes in Cosmetics, Skin Care, Tissue Regeneration, and Dermatological Diseases. Abhimanyu Thakur, D. S. s.l. : Cosmetics, 2023.
3. Impact of Storage Conditions on EV Integrity/Surface Markers and Cargos. Jin, A. S. s.l. : Life, 2022.
4. Exosome: A Review of Its Classification, Isolation, Techniques, Storage, Diagnostic and Targeted Therapy Applications. Yi Zhang, J. B. s.l. : International Journal of Nanomedicine, 2020.
5. Ginger derived nanoparticles protect against alcohol-induced liver damage. Xiaoying Zhuang, Z. s.l. : Journal of extracellular vesicles, 2015.
6. A review of exosomes and their application in cutaneous medical aesthetics. Kehinde Raji Olumesi MD, M. D. s.l. : Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, 2023.
7. The novel mechanisms and applications of exosomes in dermatology and cutaneous medical aesthetics. Mingchen Xiong 1, Q. Z. s.l. : Pharmacological Research, 2021.

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