A simple and quick method for loading proteins in extracellular vesicles

Sara Busatto, Dalila Iannotta, Sierra A. Walker, Luisa Di Marzio, Joy Wolfram

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Extracellular vesicles (EVs) mediate intercellular transport of biomolecular cargo in the body, making them promising delivery vehicles for bioactive compounds. Genetic engineering of producer cells has enabled encapsulation of therapeutic proteins in EVs. However, genetic engineering approaches can be expensive, time-consuming, and incompatible with certain EV sources, such as human plasma and bovine milk. The goal of this study was to develop a quick, versatile, and simple method for loading proteins in EVs post-isolation. Proteins, including CRISPR associated protein 9 (Cas9), were bound to cationic lipids that were further complexed with MDA-MB-231 cell-derived EVs through passive incubation. Size-exclusion chromatography was used to remove components that were not complexed with EVs. The ability of EVs to mediate intracellular delivery of proteins was compared to conventional methods, such as electroporation and commercial protein transfection reagents. The results indicate that EVs retain native features following protein-loading and obtain similar levels of intracellular protein delivery as conventional methods, but display less toxicity. This method opens up opportunities for rapid exploration of EVs for protein delivery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number356
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2021


  • Cas9
  • Drug delivery
  • Exosome
  • Extracellular vesicles
  • Protein delivery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Pharmaceutical Science
  • Drug Discovery


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