First published June 11, 2019 - More info
Progression of fibrosis and the development of cirrhosis are responsible for the liver related morbidity and mortality associated with chronic liver diseases. There is currently a great unmet need for effective anti-fibrotic strategies. Stem cells play a central role in wound healing responses to restore liver homeostasis following injury. Here we tested the hypothesis that extracellular vesicles (EVs) isolated from induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) modulate hepatic stellate cell (HSCs) activation and may have anti-fibrotic effects. Human iPSCs were generated by reprogramming primary skin fibroblasts. EVs were isolated by differential centrifugation, quantified by flow cytometry (FACS) and characterized by dynamic light scattering (DLS) and electron microscopy (TEM). Primary human HSCs were activated with TGFβ (10 ng/mL) and exposed to iPSC-EVs. Efficacy of iPSC-EVs was tested on HSC in vitro and in two murine models of liver injury (CCl4 and bile duct ligation). Characterization of iPSC-derived EVs by flow cytometry identified a large population of EVs released by iPSC, primarily with a diameter of 300 nm and that could be visualized by TEM as round, cup-shaped objects. Fluorescent tracing assays detected iPSC-EVs in HSC cytosol after a short incubation and EV uptake by HSCs resulted in both decrease of pro-fibrogenic markers αSMA, CollagenIα1, Fibronectin and TIMP-1 and HSC pro-fibrogenic responses such as chemotaxis and proliferation. Genomics analyses of iPSC-EV miRNA cargo revealed 22 highly expressed miRNAs, among which miR-92a-3p resulted the most abundant. Transcriptome analysis identified 60 genes down-modulated and 235 up-regulated in TGF-β-primed HSC in presence or absence of iPSC-EVs. Intravenous injection of iPSC-EVs in CCl4 and bile duct ligation-induced liver fibrosis resulted in anti-fibrotic effects at protein and gene levels. Results of this study identify iPSC-EVs as a novel anti-fibrotic approach that may reduce or reverse liver fibrosis in patients with chronic liver disease.