Theranostics 2013; 3(12):964-985. doi:10.7150/thno.4928


Therapeutic Evaluation of microRNAs by Molecular Imaging

Thillai V. Sekar1, Ramkumar Kunga Mohanram1, 2, Kira Foygel1, Ramasamy Paulmurugan1 ✉

1. Molecular Imaging Program at Stanford, Bio-X Program, Department of Radiology, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California, USA.
2. Current address: SRM Research Institute, SRM University, Kattankulathur- 603 203, Tamilnadu, India


MicroRNAs (miRNAs) function as regulatory molecules of gene expression with multifaceted activities that exhibit direct or indirect oncogenic properties, which promote cell proliferation, differentiation, and the development of different types of cancers. Because of their extensive functional involvement in many cellular processes, under both normal and pathological conditions such as various cancers, this class of molecules holds particular interest for cancer research. MiRNAs possess the ability to act as tumor suppressors or oncogenes by regulating the expression of different apoptotic proteins, kinases, oncogenes, and other molecular mechanisms that can cause the onset of tumor development. In contrast to current cancer medicines, miRNA-based therapies function by subtle repression of gene expression on a large number of oncogenic factors, and therefore are anticipated to be highly efficacious. Given their unique mechanism of action, miRNAs are likely to yield a new class of targeted therapeutics for a variety of cancers. More than thousand miRNAs have been identified to date, and their molecular mechanisms and functions are well studied. Furthermore, they are established as compelling therapeutic targets in a variety of cellular complications. However, the notion of using them as therapeutic tool was proposed only recently, given that modern imaging methods are just beginning to be deployed for miRNA research. In this review, we present a summary of various molecular imaging methods, which are instrumental in revealing the therapeutic potential of miRNAs, especially in various cancers. Imaging methods have recently been developed for monitoring the expression levels of miRNAs and their target genes by fluorescence-, bioluminescence- and chemiluminescence-based imaging techniques. Mature miRNAs bind to the untranslated regions (UTRs) of the target mRNAs and regulate target genes expressions. This concept has been used for the development of fluorescent reporter-based imaging strategies to monitor the functional status of endogenous miRNAs, or the respective miRNAs transiently co-expressed in cells. Bioluminescence-based imaging strategies have been used to investigate various stages of miRNA processing and its involvement in different cellular processes. Similarly, chemiluminsecence methods were developed for in vitro miRNA imaging such as monitoring their therapeutic roles in various cancer cell lines.

Keywords: miRNAs, molecular Imaging

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How to cite this article:
Sekar TV, Mohanram RK, Foygel K, Paulmurugan R. Therapeutic Evaluation of microRNAs by Molecular Imaging. Theranostics 2013; 3(12):964-985. doi:10.7150/thno.4928. Available from