Circulating miRNAs in bone health and disease

Bone. 2021 Apr:145:115787. doi: 10.1016/j.bone.2020.115787. Epub 2020 Dec 8.


microRNAs have evolved as important regulators of multiple biological pathways essential for bone homeostasis, and microRNA research has furthered our understanding of the mechanisms underlying bone health and disease. This knowledge, together with the finding that active or passive release of microRNAs from cells into the extracellular space enables minimal-invasive detection in biofluids (circulating miRNAs), motivated researchers to explore microRNAs as biomarkers in several pathologic conditions, including bone diseases. Thus, exploratory studies in cohorts representing different types of bone diseases have been performed. In this review, we first summarize important molecular basics of microRNA function and release and provide recommendations for best (pre-)analytical practices and documentation standards for circulating microRNA research required for generating high quality data and ensuring reproducibility of results. Secondly, we review how the genesis of bone-derived circulating microRNAs via release from osteoblasts and osteoclasts could contribute to the communication between these cells. Lastly, we summarize evidence from clinical research studies that have investigated the clinical utility of microRNAs as biomarkers in musculoskeletal disorders. While previous reviews have mainly focused on diagnosis of primary osteoporosis, we have also included studies exploring the utility of circulating microRNAs in monitoring anti-osteoporotic treatment and for diagnosis of other types of bone diseases, such as diabetic osteopathy, bone degradation in inflammatory diseases, and monogenetic bone diseases.

Keywords: Biomarkers; Bone health and disease; Bone metabolism; Circulating microRNAs; Extracellular vesicles.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers
  • Bone Density
  • Bone and Bones
  • Circulating MicroRNA* / genetics
  • MicroRNAs* / genetics
  • Reproducibility of Results


  • Biomarkers
  • Circulating MicroRNA
  • MicroRNAs