MiRNAs as potential biomarkers in irritable bowel syndrome and colorectal cancer?

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) represents one of the most frequent functional gastrointestinal disorders. However, despite intensive research conducted in this field, IBS is still in search for a reliable biomarker. Up to the present time, there is no trait or marker useful to differentiate between IBS, healthy subjects, mild inflammatory bowel disorders, or even incipient colorectal cancer. Colorectal cancer (CRC) is a frequent type of cancer. In an incipient state, it can be asymptomatic or some symptoms could overlap or be misinterpreted as IBS.

The patients often have to undergo invasive procedures, such as a colonoscopy, frequently with biopsies, in order to receive a diagnosis. Therefore, there is a need for a reliable marker to help doctors differentiate between IBS patients, CRC patients, and healthy subjects, in a noninvasive or in a minimal invasive manner.

“Traditional” lab work assessments have failed to identify a specific biomarker for IBS. This is why the group of researchers from the University of Medicine and Pharmacy Cluj-Napoca explored other potential biomarkers: miR-23a and miR-181b using newer techniques – qRT-PCR. MiRNAs are intensively researched in various diseases such as CRC. However, literature data is scarce regarding miRNAs in IBS. This group of researchers assessed the two miRNAs in patients with IBS, patients with CRC, and in healthy control subjects.

The researchers found that the levels of miR-23a and miR-181b were higher in IBS and also in patients with CRC, compared to healthy controls.

This study, published in the journal BJBMS, proves that miRNAs could serve as reliable biomarkers useful in clinical practice, but future studies are needed to establish a cut-off limit for a specific miRNA in different diseases and to validate results of this study.

Reference:

Chira A, Muresan MS, Braicu C, Budisan L, Raduly L, Chira RI, Dumitrascu DL, Berindan-Neagoe I. Serum patterns of mir-23a and mir-181b in irritable bowel syndrome and colorectal cancer – A pilot study. Bosn J of Basic Med Sci, 2019. Available from: https://www.bjbms.org/ojs/index.php/bjbms/article/view/4392

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