Published online Sep 14, 2012. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v18.i34.4629
Revised: April 9, 2012
Accepted: April 20, 2012
Published online: September 14, 2012
The pathogenesis of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is complex and largely unknown. Until recently, research has focused on the study of protein regulators in inflammation to reveal the cellular and molecular networks in the pathogenesis of IBD. However, in the last few years, new and promising insights have been generated from studies describing an association between an altered expression of a specific class of non-coding RNAs, called microRNAs (miRs or miRNAs) and IBD. The short (approximately 22 nucleotides), endogenous, single-stranded RNAs are evolutionary conserved in animals and plants, and regulate specific target mRNAs at the post-transcriptional level. MiRNAs are involved in several biological processes, including development, cell differentiation, proliferation and apoptosis. Furthermore, it is estimated that miRNAs may be responsible for regulating the expression of nearly one-third of the genes in the human genome. Thus, miRNA deregulation often results in an impaired cellular function, and a disturbance of downstream gene regulation and signaling cascades, suggesting their implication in disease etiology. Despite the identification of more than 1900 mature human miRNAs, very little is known about their biological functions and functional targets. Recent studies have identified dysregulated miRNAs in tissue samples of IBD patients and have demonstrated similar differences in circulating miRNAs in the serum of IBD patients. Thus, there is great promise that miRNAs will aid in the early diagnosis of IBD, and in the development of personalized therapies. Here, we provide a short review of the current state-of-the-art of miRNAs in IBD pathogenesis, diagnostics and therapeutics.