MicroRNA expression and function in neonatal hypoxic ischaemic encephalopathy

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Looney, Ann-Marie
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University College Cork
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Hypoxic ischaemic encephalopathy (HIE) is a devastating neonatal condition which affects 2-3 per 1000 infants annually. The current gold standard of treatment - induced hypothermia, has the ability to reduce neonatal mortality and improve neonatal morbidity. However, to be effective it needs to be initiated within the therapeutic window which exists following initial insult until approximately 6 hours after birth. Current methods of assessment which are relied upon to identify infants with HIE are subjective and unreliable. To overcome this issue, an early and reliable biomarker of HIE severity must be identified. MicroRNA (miRNA) are a class of small non-coding RNA molecules which have potential as biomarkers of disease state and potential therapeutic targets. These tiny molecules can modulate gene expression by inhibiting translation of messenger RNA (mRNA) and as a result, can regulate protein synthesis. These miRNA are understood to be released into the circulation during cellular stress, where they are highly stable and relatively easy to quantify. Therefore, these miRNAs may be ideal candidates for biomarkers of HIE severity and may aid in directing the clinical management of these infants. By using both transcriptomic and proteomic approaches to analyse the expression of miRNAs and their potential targets in the umbilical cord blood, I have confirmed that infants with perinatal asphyxia and HIE have a significantly different UCB miRNA signature compared to UCB samples from healthy controls. Finally, I have identified and investigated 2 individual miRNAs; both of which show some potential as classifiers of HIE severity and predictors of long term outcome, particularly when coupled with their downstream targets. While this work will need to be validated and expanded in a new and larger cohort of infants, it suggests the potential of miRNA as biomarkers of neonatal pathological conditions such as HIE.
Biomarker , MicroRNA , Hypoxic ischaemic encephalopathy , Neurodevelopmental outcome
Looney, A. 2016. MicroRNA expression and function in neonatal hypoxic ischaemic encephalopathy. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.
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