MicroRNAs change the games in central nervous system pharmacology

Biochem Pharmacol. 2019 Oct;168:162-172. doi: 10.1016/j.bcp.2019.06.019. Epub 2019 Jun 25.


MicroRNAs (miRNAs) represent a class of important post-transcriptional regulators of gene expression, enabling cells to follow their intrinsic developmental program. By directly binding to their targets, miRNAs can both promote transcriptional patterns in crucial steps of cell growth, and act as powerful buffering system that titrate protein content in case of aberrant gene expression. The literature of the last decade showed that the presence of tissue-enriched miRNAs in body fluids could be reminiscent of disease state. This is particularly relevant in neurodegenerative disorders, in which peripheral biomarkers could be helpful means to detect disease onset. However, dysregulation of miRNAs is not merely a consequence of disease, but directly contributes to pathological outcomes. On this basis, increasing interest is growing in the development of pharmacological agents targeting specific miRNAs. Actually, this apparently futuristic approach is already part of the current therapies. In fact, several drugs approved for CNS disorders, such as L-Dopa or valproic acid, were also demonstrated to restore some miRNAs. Moreover, ongoing clinical trials demonstrated that miRNA-based drugs are effective against tumors, suggesting that miRNAs also represent a promising class of therapeutic molecules. However, several issues still need to be addressed, particularly in case of CNS diseases, in which stability and delivery are crucial aspects of the therapy. In this commentary, we highlighted potential advantages and limitations of miRNAs as next generation targets in CNS pharmacology, focusing on multiple sclerosis, a chronic demyelinating disease lacking specific therapeutic targets and bona-fide biomarkers.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Central Nervous System
  • Central Nervous System Diseases / drug therapy*
  • Central Nervous System Diseases / metabolism*
  • Down-Regulation / drug effects
  • Drug Resistance
  • Humans
  • MicroRNAs / metabolism*
  • MicroRNAs / therapeutic use*
  • Multiple Sclerosis / drug therapy
  • Multiple Sclerosis / metabolism
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / drug therapy
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Up-Regulation / drug effects


  • Biomarkers
  • MicroRNAs