The main objective of this pilot study was to identify circulatory microRNAs in aqueous or plasma that were reflecting changes in vitreous of diabetic retinopathy patients. Aqueous, vitreous and plasma samples were collected from a total of 27 patients undergoing vitreoretinal surgery: 11 controls (macular pucker or macular hole patients) and 16 with diabetes mellitus(DM): DM-Type I with proliferative diabetic retinopathy(PDR) (DMI-PDR), DM Type II with PDR(DMII-PDR) and DM Type II with nonproliferative DR(DMII-NPDR). MicroRNAs were isolated using Qiagen microRNeasy kit, quantified on BioAnalyzer, and profiled on Affymetrix GeneChip miRNA 3.0 microarrays. Data were analyzed using Expression Console, Transcriptome Analysis Console, and Ingenuity Pathway Analysis. The comparison analysis of circulatory microRNAs showed that out of a total of 847 human microRNA probes on the microarrays, common microRNAs present both in aqueous and vitreous were identified, and a large number of unique microRNA, dependent on the DM type and severity of retinopathy. Most of the dysregulated microRNAs in aqueous and vitreous of DM patients were upregulated, while in plasma, they were downregulated. Dysregulation of miRNAs in aqueous did not appear to be a good representative of the miRNA abundance in vitreous, or plasma, although a few potential candidates for common biomarkers stood out: let-7b, miR-320b, miR-762 and miR-4488. Additionally, each of the DR subtypes showed miRNAs that were uniquely dysregulated in each fluid (i.e. aqueous: for DMII-NPDR was miR-455-3p; for DMII-PDR was miR-296, and for DMI-PDR it was miR-3202). Pathway analysis identified TGF-beta and VEGF pathways affected. The comparative profiling of circulatory miRNAs showed that a small number of them displayed differential presence in diabetic retinopathy vs. controls. A pattern is emerging of unique molecular microRNA signatures in bodily fluids of DR subtypes, offering promise for the use of ocular fluids and plasma for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes.
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