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The measurement of plasma microRNAs (miRNAs) and messenger RNAs (mRNAs) is the most recent effort to identify novel biomarkers in preclinical safety. These genomic markers often display tissue-specific expression, may be released from the tissues into the plasma during toxic events, change early and with high magnitude in tissues and in the blood during specific organ toxicities, and can be measured using multiplex formats. Their validation as biomarkers has been challenged by the technical difficulties. In particular, the concentration of miRNAs in the plasma depends on contamination by miRNAs originating from blood cells and platelets, and the relative fraction of miRNAs in complexes with Argonaute 2, high-density lipoproteins, and in exosomes and microvesicles. In spite of these hurdles, considerable progress has recently been made in assessing the potential value of miRNAs in the clinic, especially in cancer patients and cardiovascular diseases. The future of miRNAs and mRNAs as biomarkers of disease and organ toxicity depends on our ability to characterize their kinetics and to establish robust collection and measurement methods. This review covers the basic biology of miRNAs and the published literature on the use of miRNAs and mRNAs as biomarkers of specific target organ toxicity.


Igor Mikaelian, Marshall Scicchitano, Odete Mendes, Roberta A Thomas, Bruce E Leroy. Frontiers in preclinical safety biomarkers: microRNAs and messenger RNAs. Toxicologic pathology. 2013 Jan;41(1):18-31

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PMID: 22659243

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