Small and mighty – the increasing influence of microRNA


If you’ve worked in molecular biology anytime in the last several years, you’ve heard of microRNA – the small, non-coding RNA species that silences gene expression, influencing everything from embryonic development to diseases like cancer. What you may not know is that circulating microRNAs, carried by exosomes or partnered with Ago2 or HDL, are taking on a new role: biomarkers.

What can scientists do with a circulating microRNA biomarker signature? A lot of things, depending on the disease. Some signatures may predict when a disease is likely to develop, like in schizophrenia, a disease with few reliable existing markers. (Source) Some show promise in discriminating between conditions with similar symptoms, like in the case of acetaminophen toxicity. (Source) Still others can indicate whether a cancer treatment is working. (Source) Technology is racing to keep up as new microRNAs are discovered, more sensitive detection allows identification of rare microRNAs as never before, and the functions of more microRNAs are characterized.

What will the microRNA revolution look like? How will you participate in it, and what technology will you need to mine the rich potential of these molecules? Stick with us to find out – in this blog, we’ll be covering the most interesting new findings in microRNA research, from biological insights to technological advances. The journey is just beginning, and we’re looking forward to sharing it with you!

Ali Bierly

Ali Bierly, PhD is a Global Market Manager in Translational Sciences at QIAGEN, and has written on a number of scientific topics in the biotech industry as the author of QIAGEN's Reviews Online. She received her PhD from Cornell University in 2009, studying the immune response to a protozoan parasite, Toxoplasma gondii. Ali has a keen interest in the emerging importance of microRNA and other circulating nucleic acids as biomarkers for disease.

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