The regenerative and immunomodulatory activity of mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) is partially mediated by secreted vesicular factors. Extracellular vesicles (EVs) exocytosed by MSCs are gaining increased attention as prospective non-cellular therapeutics for a variety of diseases. However, the lack of suitable in vitro assays to monitor the therapeutic potential of EVs currently restricts their application in clinical studies. We have evaluated a dual in vitro immunomodulation potency assay that reproducibly reports the inhibitory effect of MSCs on induced T-cell proliferation and the alloantigen-driven mixed leukocyte reaction of pooled peripheral blood mononuclear cells in a dose-dependent manner. Phytohemagglutinin-stimulated T-cell proliferation was inhibited by MSC-derived EVs in a dose-dependent manner comparable to MSCs. In contrast, inhibition of alloantigen-driven mixed leukocyte reaction was only observed for MSCs, but not for EVs. Our results support the application of a cell-based in vitro potency assay for reproducibly determining the immunomodulatory potential of EVs. Validation of this assay can help establish reliable release criteria for EVs for future clinical studies.
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