Stroke is the leading cause of disability, and stroke survivors suffer from long-term sequelae even after receiving recombinant tissue plasminogen activator therapy and endovascular intracranial thrombectomy. Increasing evidence suggests that exosomes, nano-sized extracellular membrane vesicles, enhance neurogenesis, angiogenesis, and axonal outgrowth, all the while suppressing inflammatory reactions, thereby enhancing functional recovery after stroke. A systematic literature review to study the association of stroke recovery with exosome therapy was carried out, analyzing species, stroke model, source of exosomes, behavioral analyses, and outcome data, as well as molecular mechanisms. Thirteen studies were included in the present systematic review. In the majority of studies, exosomes derived from mesenchymal stromal cells or stem cells were administered intravenously within 24 h after transient middle cerebral artery occlusion, showing a significant improvement of neurological severity and motor functions. Specific microRNAs and molecules were identified by mechanistic investigations, and their amplification was shown to further enhance therapeutic effects, including neurogenesis, angiogenesis, axonal outgrowth, and synaptogenesis. Overall, this review addresses the current advances in exosome therapy for stroke recovery in preclinical studies, which can hopefully be preparatory steps for the future development of clinical trials involving stroke survivors to improve functional outcomes.
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