Circulating microRNAs: The Future of Biomarkers in Anti-doping Field

Adv Exp Med Biol. 2015;888:401-8. doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-22671-2_20.


microRNAs (miRNAs) are small non-coding RNAs that regulate various biological processes. Cell-free miRNAs have been proposed as biomarkers of disease, including diagnosis, prognosis, and monitoring of treatment responses. These circulating miRNAs are highly stable in several body fluids, including plasma and serum; hence, in view of their potential use as novel, non-invasive biomarkers, the profiles of circulating miRNAs have been explored in the field of anti-doping. This chapter describes the enormous potential of circulating miRNAs as a new class of biomarkers for the detection of doping substances, and highlights the advantages of measuring these stable species over other methods that have already been implemented in anti-doping regimes. Incorporating longitudinal measurements of circulating miRNAs into the Athlete Biological Passport is proposed as an efficient strategy for the implementation of these new biomarkers. Furthermore, potential challenges related to the transition of measurements of circulating miRNAs from research settings to practical anti-doping applications are presented.

Keywords: Athlete biological passport; Biomarkers; Circulating microRNAs; Doping.

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers / blood*
  • Doping in Sports / prevention & control*
  • Doping in Sports / trends
  • Forecasting
  • Humans
  • MicroRNAs / blood*
  • MicroRNAs / genetics
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Substance Abuse Detection / methods*
  • Substance Abuse Detection / trends
  • Substance-Related Disorders / blood
  • Substance-Related Disorders / diagnosis
  • Substance-Related Disorders / genetics


  • Biomarkers
  • MicroRNAs