Circulating microRNAs as novel biomarkers for diabetes mellitus

Nat Rev Endocrinol. 2013 Sep;9(9):513-21. doi: 10.1038/nrendo.2013.86. Epub 2013 Apr 30.


Diabetes mellitus is characterized by insulin secretion from pancreatic β cells that is insufficient to maintain blood glucose homeostasis. Autoimmune destruction of β cells results in type 1 diabetes mellitus, whereas conditions that reduce insulin sensitivity and negatively affect β-cell activities result in type 2 diabetes mellitus. Without proper management, patients with diabetes mellitus develop serious complications that reduce their quality of life and life expectancy. Biomarkers for early detection of the disease and identification of individuals at risk of developing complications would greatly improve the care of these patients. Small non-coding RNAs called microRNAs (miRNAs) control gene expression and participate in many physiopathological processes. Hundreds of miRNAs are actively or passively released in the circulation and can be used to evaluate health status and disease progression. Both type 1 diabetes mellitus and type 2 diabetes mellitus are associated with distinct modifications in the profile of miRNAs in the blood, which are sometimes detectable several years before the disease manifests. Moreover, circulating levels of certain miRNAs seem to be predictive of long-term complications. Technical and scientific obstacles still exist that need to be overcome, but circulating miRNAs might soon become part of the diagnostic arsenal to identify individuals at risk of developing diabetes mellitus and its devastating complications.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / blood*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / genetics
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / pathology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / blood*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / genetics
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / pathology
  • Humans
  • MicroRNAs / blood*


  • MicroRNAs