Serum miRNA biomarkers serve as a fingerprint for proliferative diabetic retinopathy

Cell Physiol Biochem. 2014;34(5):1733-40. doi: 10.1159/000366374. Epub 2014 Nov 12.


Background: Diabetic retinopathy (DR) is a retinopathy resulting from diabetes mellitus (DM) which was classified into non-proliferative DR (NPDR) and proliferative DR (PDR). Without an early screening and effective diagnosis, patients with PDR will develop serious complications. Therefore, we sought to identify special serum microRNAs (miRNAs) that can serve as a novel non-invasive screening signature of PDR and test its specificity and sensitivity in the early diagnosis of PDR.

Methods: In total, we obtained serum samples from 90 PDR cases, 90 matched NPDR patients and 20 controls. An initial screening of miRNA expression was performed through TaqMan Low Density Array (TLDA). The candidate miRNAs were validated by individual reverse transcription quantitative real-time PCR (RT-qPCR) arranged in an initial and a two-stage validation sets. Moreover, additional double-blind testing was performed in 20 patients clinically suspected of having DR to evaluate the diagnostic value and accuracy of the serum miRNA profiling system in predicting PDR.

Results: Three miRNAs were significantly increased in patients with PDR compared with NPDR after the multiple stages. The areas under the receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curves of the validated three-serum miRNAs signature were 0.830, 0.803 and 0.873 in the initial and two validation sets, respectively. Combination of miR-21, miR-181c, and miR-1179 possessed a moderate ability to discrimination between PDR and NPDR with an area under ROC value of 0.89. The accuracy rate of the three-miRNA profile as PDR signature was 82.6%.

Conclusions: These data provide evidence that serum miRNAs have the potential to be sensitive, cost-effective biomarkers for the early detection of PDR. These biomarkers could serve as a dynamic monitoring factor for detecting the progression of PDR from NPDR.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers / blood*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Diabetic Retinopathy / blood*
  • Diabetic Retinopathy / diagnosis*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • MicroRNAs / blood*
  • Middle Aged
  • ROC Curve


  • Biomarkers
  • MicroRNAs