Circulating microRNAs as long-term biomarkers for the detection of erythropoiesis-stimulating agent abuse

Drug Test Anal. Nov-Dec 2011;3(11-12):771-6. doi: 10.1002/dta.370. Epub 2011 Nov 24.


MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small, non-protein coding transcripts involved in many cellular and physiological mechanisms. Recently, a new class of miRNA called 'circulating miRNAs' was found in cell-free body fluids such as plasma and urine. Circulating miRNAs have been shown to be very stable, specific, and sensitive biomarkers. In this paper, we investigate whether circulating miRNAs can serve as biomarkers for erythropoiesis-stimulating agent abuse. To this end, we analyzed miRNA levels in plasma by miRNA microarrays and quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Plasma samples are derived from a clinical study with healthy subjects injected with erythropoiesis-stimulating agent (C.E.R.A.). Based on microarray results, we observed a significant difference in the levels of miRNAs in plasma after C.E.R.A. injection. We demonstrated that a specific miRNA, miR-144, exhibit a high increase that lasts 27 days after C.E.R.A. stimulation. Considering the fact that miR-144 is an essential erythropoiesis agent in different organisms, these findings suggest the possibility of using miR-144 as a sensitive and informative biomarker to detect C.E.R.A. abuse.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Hematinics / administration & dosage
  • Hematinics / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • MicroRNAs / blood*
  • Substance Abuse Detection / methods*
  • Young Adult


  • Biomarkers
  • Hematinics
  • MIRN144 microRNA, human
  • MicroRNAs