Circular RNAs: Potential biomarkers and therapeutic targets for autoimmune diseases

Heliyon. 2023 Dec 14;10(1):e23694. doi: 10.1016/j.heliyon.2023.e23694. eCollection 2024 Jan 15.


The outcomes and prognosis of autoimmune diseases depend on early diagnosis and effective treatments. However, symptoms of early autoimmune diseases are often remarkably similar to many inflammatory diseases, leading to difficulty in precise diagnosis. Circular RNAs (circRNAs) belong to a novel class of endogenous RNAs, functioning as microRNA (miRNA) sponges or participating in protein coding. It has been shown in many studies that patients with autoimmune diseases have aberrant circRNA expression in liquid biopsy samples (such as plasma, saliva, and urine). Thus, circRNAs are potential biomarkers for the diagnosis and prognosis of autoimmune diseases. Moreover, overexpression and depletion of target circRNAs can be utilized as possible therapeutic approaches for treating autoimmune diseases. In this review, we summarized recent progress in the roles of circRNAs in the pathogenesis of autoimmune diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, multiple sclerosis, and type 1 diabetes. We also discussed their potential as biomarkers and therapeutic targets.

Keywords: Autoimmune diseases; Biomarker; Circular RNA; Multiple sclerosis; Rheumatoid arthritis; Systemic lupus erythematosus; Type 1 diabetes.

Publication types

  • Review