MicroRNAs in the search for understanding human diseases

BioDrugs. 2007;21(2):97-104. doi: 10.2165/00063030-200721020-00004.


MiroRNAs (miRNAs) are double-stranded, noncoding RNA molecules (with an average size of 22bp) that serve as post-transcriptional regulators of gene expression in higher eukaryotes. miRNAs play an important role in development and other cellular processes by hybridizing with complementary target mRNA transcripts, preventing their translation and thereby destabilizing the target transcripts. Though hundreds of miRNAs have been discovered in a variety of organisms, little is known about their cellular function. They have been implicated in the regulation of developmental timing and pattern formation, restriction of differentiation potential, regulation of insulin secretion, resistance to viral infection, and in genomic rearrangements associated with carcinogenesis or other genetic disorders, such as fragile X syndrome. Recent evidence suggests that the number of unique miRNA genes in humans exceeds 1000, and may be as high as 20,000. It is estimated that 20-30% of all human mRNAs are miRNA targets. During the last few years, special attention has been given to miRNAs as candidate drug targets for cancer, diabetes mellitus, obesity, and viral diseases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain Diseases / etiology
  • Brain Diseases / genetics
  • Diabetes Mellitus / etiology
  • Diabetes Mellitus / genetics
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Heart Diseases / etiology
  • Heart Diseases / genetics
  • Humans
  • MicroRNAs / physiology*
  • Neoplasms / etiology
  • Neoplasms / genetics
  • Obesity / etiology
  • Obesity / genetics
  • Virus Diseases / etiology
  • Virus Diseases / genetics


  • MicroRNAs