Circulating microRNAs: novel biomarkers and extracellular communicators in cardiovascular disease?

Circ Res. 2012 Feb 3;110(3):483-95. doi: 10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.111.247452.


In the past few years, the crucial role of different micro-RNAs (miRNAs) in the cardiovascular system has been widely recognized. Recently, it was discovered that extracellular miRNAs circulate in the bloodstream and that such circulating miRNAs are remarkably stable. This has raised the possibility that miRNAs may be probed in the circulation and can serve as novel diagnostic markers. Although the precise cellular release mechanisms of miRNAs remain largely unknown, the first studies revealed that these circulating miRNAs may be delivered to recipient cells, where they can regulate translation of target genes. In this review, we will discuss the nature of the stability of miRNAs that circulate in the bloodstream and discuss the available evidence regarding the possible function of these circulating miRNAs in distant cell-to-cell communication. Furthermore, we summarize and discuss the usefulness of circulating miRNAs as biomarkers for a wide range of cardiovascular diseases such as myocardial infarction, heart failure, atherosclerosis, hypertension, and type 2 diabetes mellitus.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / diagnosis
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Cell Communication / physiology
  • Extracellular Matrix / physiology*
  • Humans
  • MicroRNAs / blood*
  • Models, Animal


  • Biomarkers
  • MicroRNAs