Int J Biol Sci 2021; 17(2):549-561. doi:10.7150/ijbs.54858 This issue


Extracellular vesicles and pancreatitis: mechanisms, status and perspectives

Yu-Chen Jia1,2*, Yi-Xuan Ding1,2*, Wen-Tong Mei1,2, Yu-Ting Wang3, Zhi Zheng1,2, Yuan-Xu Qu1,2, Kuo Liang1,2, Jia Li1,2, Feng Cao1,2✉, Fei Li1,2✉

1. Department of General Surgery, Xuanwu Hospital, Capital Medical University, Beijing, China.
2. Clinical Center for Acute Pancreatitis, Capital Medical University, Beijing, China.
3. Capital Medical University, Beijing, China.
*These authors contributed equally to this work.

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( See for full terms and conditions.
Jia YC, Ding YX, Mei WT, Wang YT, Zheng Z, Qu YX, Liang K, Li J, Cao F, Li F. Extracellular vesicles and pancreatitis: mechanisms, status and perspectives. Int J Biol Sci 2021; 17(2):549-561. doi:10.7150/ijbs.54858. Available from

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Graphic abstract

Comprehensive reviews and large population-based cohort studies have played an important role in the diagnosis and treatment of pancreatitis and its sequelae. The incidence and mortality of pancreatitis have been reduced significantly due to substantial advancements in the pathophysiological mechanisms and clinically effective treatments. The study of extracellular vesicles (EVs) has the potential to identify cell-to-cell communication in diseases such as pancreatitis. Exosomes are a subset of EVs with an average diameter of 50~150 nm. Their diverse and unique constituents include nucleic acids, proteins, and lipids, which can be transferred to trigger phenotypic changes of recipient cells. In recent years, many reports have indicated the role of EVs in pancreatitis, including acute pancreatitis, chronic pancreatitis and autoimmune pancreatitis, suggesting their potential influence on the development and progression of pancreatitis. Plasma exosomes of acute pancreatitis can effectively reach the alveolar cavity and activate alveolar macrophages to cause acute lung injury. Furthermore, upregulated exosomal miRNAs can be used as biomarkers for acute pancreatitis. Here, we summarized the current understanding of EVs in pancreatitis with an emphasis on their biological roles and their potential use as diagnostic biomarkers and therapeutic agents for this disease.

Keywords: pancreatitis, extracellular vesicles, exosomes, biomarkers