Plasma miRNA Biomarkers Identified for Schizophrenia; May Enable First Objective Diagnostic Test for This Disorder; Accompanying Editorial Notes Possible Role of miRNA-Protective Exosomes

Researchers in China have shown that the up-regulation of two microRNAs (miR-130b and miR-193a-3p) in plasma is a state-independent biomarker for schizophrenia and the scientists suggest that these two miRNAs could be used to develop a diagnostic tool for schizophrenia. The new results were published in the November 1, 2015 issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry in an article titled “Detection of Circulating miRNA Levels in Schizophrenia.” The authors, from the Peking University Institute of Mental Health; and collaborating institutions in China, noted that schizophrenia is one of the most common severe mental disorders, with a lifetime risk of 1% in the population worldwide. Today, the diagnosis of schizophrenia remains symptom-based, relying mainly on self-reports from patients, mental state examination, and clinical interviews, and lacking objective laboratory tests. Such a diagnostic strategy can sometimes lead to misdiagnosis and has been widely criticized, the authors said. To remedy this “embarrassing state of affairs,” a set of biomarkers has previously (2012) been proposed based on physical and biological tests. The authors stated, however, that while “numerous studies have reported that circulating miRNA levels are highly associated with various diseases in humans, such as diabetes, cancer, and immunological diseases, there has been no systematic research on circulating miRNAs in psychiatric diseases.” The motivation for the current study was to pursue such an effort by determining whether circulating miRNA can serve as a diagnostic biomarker for schizophrenia. Briefly, the details of the new Chines work are as follows.
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