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. 2014 Feb 25;8:53.
doi: 10.3389/fncel.2014.00053. eCollection 2014.

MicroRNA Dysregulation in Spinal Cord Injury: Causes, Consequences and Therapeutics

Free PMC article

MicroRNA Dysregulation in Spinal Cord Injury: Causes, Consequences and Therapeutics

Manuel Nieto-Diaz et al. Front Cell Neurosci. .
Free PMC article


Trauma to the spinal cord causes permanent disability to more than 180,000 people every year worldwide. The initial mechanical damage triggers a complex set of secondary events involving the neural, vascular, and immune systems that largely determine the functional outcome of the spinal cord injury (SCI). Cellular and biochemical mechanisms responsible for this secondary injury largely depend on activation and inactivation of specific gene programs. Recent studies indicate that microRNAs function as gene expression switches in key processes of the SCI. Microarray data from rodent contusion models reveal that SCI induces changes in the global microRNA expression patterns. Variations in microRNA abundance largely result from alterations in the expression of the cells at the damaged spinal cord. However, microRNA expression levels after SCI are also influenced by the infiltration of immune cells to the injury site and the death and migration of specific neural cells after injury. Evidences on the role of microRNAs in the SCI pathophysiology have come from different sources. Bioinformatic analysis of microarray data has been used to identify specific variations in microRNA expression underlying transcriptional changes in target genes, which are involved in key processes in the SCI. Direct evidences on the role of microRNAs in SCI are scarcer, although recent studies have identified several microRNAs (miR-21, miR-486, miR-20) involved in key mechanisms of the SCI such as cell death or astrogliosis, among others. From a clinical perspective, different evidences make clear that microRNAs can be potent therapeutic tools to manipulate cell state and molecular processes in order to enhance functional recovery. The present article reviews the actual knowledge on how injury affects microRNA expression and the meaning of these changes in the SCI pathophysiology, to finally explore the clinical potential of microRNAs in the SCI.

Keywords: astrogliosis; cell death; inflammation; microRNA; nervous system; spinal cord injury; therapeutics.


MicroRNAs in the spinal cord injury pathophysiology. Diagram showing the cascade of processes triggered after SCI and the contribution of differentially expressed microRNAs. Changes in microRNA expression is indicated either as increased (up arrow) or decreased (down arrow) after SCI. Target genes are also shown (confirmed, direct regulation are indicated with a solid arrow, whereas those indirect or predicted are represented with a dashed arrow).

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