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Profiling A Panorama Of Pathologies
For decades, DNA took up much of the spotlight in biotechnology. Though lesser-known, its single-stranded cousin RNA definitely punches above its weight—with crucial roles in everything from synthesizing proteins to carrying out biochemical reactions. In 1993, yet another function was added to RNA’s playbook: regulation.
To fine-tune gene expression, small non-coding RNAs aptly called microRNAs (miRNAs) bind and degrade the transcripts of protein-coding genes—making them critical regulators of biological processes. Unsurprisingly, unusual miRNA levels could indicate serious conditions including cancer and coronary heart disease even at its earliest stages. This not only makes miRNA a promising biomarker, but also an interesting molecule to study for a better understanding of diseases and biological processes.
By comparing miRNA levels in healthy and diseased tissues, as well as blood and other biofluids, via dedicated panels, researchers can identify disease biomarkers and even develop tests for early diagnosis. To this end, MiRXES had released two panels for profiling miRNAs respectively associated with various cancers and biofluids. In hopes of expanding the panels to diseases beyond cancer, we are now unveiling the ID3EAL PanoramiR microRNA knowledge panel, which targets 376 miRNAs linked to over 20 diseases.
Diving deep into disease-associated miRNAs
With more than 2,000 human miRNAs to choose from, assembling the PanoramiR panel required a strategic approach. To start with, our team scoured established repositories such as miRBase, the Human microRNA Disease Database and The Cancer Genome Atlas for miRNAs associated with common diseases. After cross-referencing and ranking the shortlisted miRNAs, we subsequently arrived at the final selection of 376 miRNAs.
Staying true to its name, the PanoramiR panel covers a veritable panorama of diseases—from cardiovascular diseases like stroke and metabolic disorders like diabetes to neurological syndromes such as dementia and depression. miRNAs associated with urological, reproductive, gastrointestinal and even blood cancers are also included in the panel.
As comprehensive as PanoramiR may already seem, it’s important to note that miRNAs often have multiple target genes. A particular miRNA, for instance, may be strongly associated with overall liver function. This means that even if the miRNA had been previously linked to a certain disease like non-alcoholic liver disease, it could also be used to study other conditions like cirrhosis or liver cancer. Therefore, the true scope of PanoramiR becomes much wider, allowing researchers to study other diseases beyond the panel’s initial coverage.
Minimum input, maximum insight
Similar to our previous panels, PanoramiR is powered by MiRXES’ signature ID3EALTM miRNA assay technology. By using three primers—namely specific conformation-restricted primers during reverse transcription as well as forward and reverse primers in the polymerase chain reaction—even low numbers of miRNA or highly similar miRNA family members can be robustly detected and quantified in less than three hours.
To make things even more convenient, PanoramiR is capable of processing an initial RNA input of 100 ng, meaning that precious clinical samples can be conserved for other analyses. The panel also includes a ready-to-use qPCR plate, prepared reagents that take into account pipetting errors, an RNA spike-in for calibration and finally, a semi-automated data analysis template accessible even for those who lack advanced bioinformatics knowledge.
In line with the trademark versatility of RNA, there’s more to the PanoramiR panel than identifying biomarkers and understanding the aforementioned diseases. The panel, for instance, could play a role in unlocking one of the coronavirus pandemic’s most enduring mysteries.
Though older people are more vulnerable to COVID-19, even younger adults seemingly in the pink of health have succumbed to the virus. These severe COVID-19 cases have been attributed to a phenomenon known as a “cytokine storm,” where excessive amounts of inflammatory molecules damage the body. As 177 miRNAs covered by PanoramiR are linked to inflammation, the panel could be used to investigate the immune response of COVID-19 patients
With all eyes on COVID-19, a panel focusing on miRNAs linked to common viruses is also now being developed at MiRXES. For now, the PanoramiR panel is available for beta access to interested parties.
Article first appeared on https://www.asianscientist.com/2020/11/features/mirxes-microrna-biomarker-diseases/