MicroRNA-Based Biomarkers in Pain

Adv Pharmacol. 2016;75:35-62. doi: 10.1016/bs.apha.2015.12.001. Epub 2016 Jan 16.


Biomarkers are measurable characteristics reflective of the physiological or diseased state and a crucial feature in rendering personalized medicine more precise. Dysregulated expression of circulating microRNAs (miRNAs) in bodily fluids is being explored as noninvasive clinical biomarker for a variety of disorders including chronic pain. High-precision qPCR-based signal amplification of these miRNAs enables the detection of small changes making them ideal biomarker candidates. Presence of circulating miRNAs in exosomes, small vesicles that mediate intercellular communication, opens up novel avenues for target intervention and biomarker discovery. miRNA signatures specific to different pain conditions, and their reversal on treatment in patients and animal models can be beneficial in patient stratification, prognosis, and in bridging preclinical and clinical results. Identification of multiple miRNAs as opposed to reliance on one specific molecule as a biomarker could improve treatment efficacies in an extremely heterogeneous pain patient population. Additionally, owing to the stability of miRNAs, retrospective studies could be performed using banked samples from completed clinical trials. Irrespective of the phase and outcome, these studies can provide insights on molecular underpinnings influencing treatment outcome, or specific therapeutic intervention. Identification of miRNAs altered in chronic pain states will have a significant impact on the identification of right leads, targets, doses, and patients. Effective implementation of miRNA-based biomarkers would provide treatment guidance for clinicians, better clinical trial designs for pharmaceutical companies, all leading to individualized care and better treatment outcome for chronic pain patients.

Keywords: Biomarker; Exosome; MicroRNA; Pain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers
  • Humans
  • MicroRNAs* / biosynthesis
  • Pain / drug therapy
  • Pain / genetics*


  • Biomarkers
  • MicroRNAs