MicroRNAs in cardiovascular disease: an introduction for clinicians
journal contributionposted on 17.02.2016, 10:43 by Simon P. R. Romaine, Maciej Tomaszewski, Gianluigi Condorelli, Nilesh Jayantilal Samani
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small, non-coding, RNA molecules approximately 22 nucleotides in length which act as post-transcriptional regulators of gene expression. Individual miRNAs have been shown to regulate the expression of multiple genes. Conversely, the expression of individual genes can be regulated by multiple miRNAs. Consequently, since their discovery just over 20 years ago, miRNAs have been identified as key regulators of complex biological processes linked to multiple cardiovascular pathologies, including left ventricular hypertrophy, ischaemic heart disease, heart failure, hypertension and arrhythmias. Furthermore, since the finding that miRNAs are present in the circulation, they have been investigated as novel biomarkers, especially in the context of acute myocardial infarction (AMI) and heart failure. While there is little convincing evidence that miRNAs can outperform traditional biomarkers, such as cardiac troponins, in the diagnosis of AMI, there is potential for miRNAs to complement existing risk prediction models and act as valuable markers of post-AMI prognosis. Encouragingly, the concept of miRNA-based therapeutics is developing, with synthetic antagonists of miRNAs (antagomiRs) currently in phase II trials for the treatment of chronic hepatitis C virus infection. In the cardiovascular field, promising preclinical studies suggest that they could be useful in treating disorders ranging from heart failure to dyslipidaemia, although several challenges related to specificity and targeted delivery remain to be overcome. Through this review, we provide clinicians with a brief overview of the ever-expanding world of miRNAs.