Currently, small extracellular vesicles (sEV) as a nanoscale drug delivery system, are undergoing biotechnological scaling and clinical validation. Nonetheless, preclinical pharmacokinetic studies revealed that sEV are predominantly uptaken by macrophages. Although this “sEV-macrophage” propensity represents a disadvantage in terms of sEV targeting and their bioavailability as nanocarriers, it also represents a strategic advantage for those therapies that involve macrophages. Such is the case of tumor-associated macrophages (TAMs), which can reprogram/repolarize their predominantly immunosuppressive and tumor-supportive phenotype toward an immunostimulatory and anti-tumor phenotype using sEV as nanocarriers of TAMs reprogramming molecules. In this design, sEV represents an advantageous delivery system, providing precision to the therapy by simultaneously matching their tropism to the therapeutic cell target. Here, we review the current knowledge of the role of TAMs in the tumoral microenvironment and the effect generated by the reprogramming of these phagocytic cells fate using sEV. Finally, we discuss how these vesicles can be engineered by different bioengineering techniques to improve their therapeutic cargo loading and preferential uptake by TAMs.
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© 2022 The Authors. Bioengineering & Translational Medicine published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of American Institute of Chemical Engineers.