Exosomes are nano sized entities secreted by your stem cells that are signals for proper functions of the stem cells. They do a variety of actions for preserving the function of the stem cells that keep the stem cells functioning at their tip top health. Think of them as messengers that tell the stem cells to stay young and healthy.
Stem Cells, Mitochondria and Exosomes
The types of stem cells that make up the structural parts of your body are called mesenchymal stem cells, or MSC’s. Their function is regulated by the interaction between their DNA, which forms internal messengers called RNA, which forms the proteins that do all types of functions within your body. These proteins form enzymes that catalyze reactions needed for life, and they form the structures of your body.
One of the internal regulators of this entire process are exosomes, produced by the MSC’s. You could say they are the regulators that stimulate the process of life in the right directions. One of these processes is to regulate your mitochondria, the powerhouses in each of your cells. Without energy within every cell, we would not be able to live and do everything we do. You got to have energy being produced within you to function, in your brain for thought and your body for every other function you need to live.
Mitochondria, DNA and Aging
As you get older, your mitochondria tend to not work as well, as does about everything else in your body. But when mitochondria don’t work as well, the cell’s energy goes down, and you feel the effects by feeling more tired or fatigued. At the cellular level, you need your mitochondria to repair and protect your DNA from damage as it does its normal everyday actions to produce the proteins that we need for regulation of all our needs.
After all, anywhere you have activity, there is always wear and tear, and this is true concerning your DNA too. As you age, DNA is always under attack. It may mutate, code the proteins incorrectly, or be injured by many internal stresses, including damaging free electrons that occur from normal metabolism. This lowered mitochondrial function causes DNA to become damaged.
Damaged DNA could result in cell death, and your immune system must either repair the damage or clean up and get rid of these damaged cells. If too many cells become dysfunctional, a lot of clean-up is needed resulting in a lot of immune cells needed for the cleanup, and this excess results in inflammation. As the inflammation gets worse, it can cause further damage to the tissues, which you see in the many changes that occur in your body as you age, such as arthritis or even wrinkles on your face.
How Inflammation Damages Tissues
Think of your tissues as a beautiful town, full of activity and pretty streets. If invaders come into the city, your army (your immune cells) comes in to kick them out. As the battle escalates, your army need to use guns, then tanks, then bombs to win (inflammation). They kick the invaders out, but the collateral damage is tremendous. There’s lots of destruction of the buildings, streets and deaths of people occur within the city (the results of the inflammation). You rebuild your town, but it’s a long hard process (repair and rejuvenation).
The same type of scenario occurs all over your body but in a microscopic way. If it occurs in your powerhouses (your mitochondria) the result could be damage to them and poor output of you energy. Exosomes could help decrease damage to the mitochondria through a reduction of inflammation and stimulate the rejeneration to occur.
Exosomes may also signal the mitochondria to continue to work properly and keep producing the energy to ensure continued proper functioning within each cell. Thus, if you can slow the damage to your DNA, you can potentially slow down the aging process.
Stem Cells and Zombie Cells
Stem cells are in every part of your body. When activated, they replicate and replace old cells that have died. Unfortunately, another thing that happens as you age is your stem cell reservoir becomes harder to activate. Exosomes can activate these stem cells to rejuvenate your tissues by signaling the internal functions of the cells to come alive, replicate, and form new cells to replace old cells.
Exosomes also help rid your body of what we call Zombie cells. These are old cells that didn’t get the message that they have to go, and they just linger. When they accumulate, they steal the nutrients and natural rejuvenating signals from your cells that would ordinarily help them function in a more youthful fashion, robbing you of your natural internal youthful rejuvenation process.
When this happens, your organs don’t function well, and you start to develop the many changes of the aging process. Your cartilage gets bad, hair doesn’t grow so well, and you are more likely to get disease of your heart, brain, lung, kidney, and other organs. In addition, these old cells (also called senescent cells) are more likely to develop into cancer cells. Thus, it is imperative that these old Zombie cells go away and allow new regenerated cells to replace them to keep your organs healthier.
Something that removes these cells or forces them to go into their natural cell death is called a senolytic. Exosomes act as senolytics and help remove these old cells while stimulating the formation of new cells from your stem cells. When the old cells die, this is called apoptosis, and this process is necessary to continually rejuvenate your cells, get rid of old ones and replace them with new youthful ones.
Thus, exosomes are compounds from stem cells that signal changes to your cells to keep their mitochondria functioning and maintain adequate energy to function properly. They also force old Zombie cells to go away and allow new cells to come alive from your natural stem cell reservoir that are everywhere in your body.
Exosomes decrease the inflammation that can occur due to normal wear and tear damage to the cells’ internal DNA and mitochondria. Decreasing inflammation within your body can thus get to the root cause of many age-related medical conditions, including heart disease, neurodegenerative disease, arthritis and cancers.
In Part 2 of this series on exosomes, we will discuss clinical applications of exosomes to help you live longer and with better quality of life.
Note: Exosomes are still in the early stages of development. They have not been evaluated by the FDA and therefore use of them are considered off-label. They have not been approved for the diagnosis, treatment, prevention, or cure for medical conditions.