MicroRNAs in congenital heart disease
Congenital heart disease (CHD) is a broad term which encompasses a spectrum of pathology, the most common phenotypes include atrial septal defects (ASDs), ventricular septal defects (VSDs), patent ductus arteriosus (PAD) and tetralogy of Fallot (TOF). The impact of CHD is profound and it is estimated to be responsible for over 40% of prenatal deaths. MicroRNAs (miRs) are small, highly conserved, non-coding RNAs which have complex roles in a variety of pathophysiological states. miRs are post-transcriptional negative regulators of gene expression. Individual miRs are known to exert effects in multiple target genes, therefore the altered expression of a single miR could influence an entire gene network resulting in complex pathological states. Recent evidences suggest a role in the dysregulation of miRs in CHD. Mouse knock out models have contributed to our knowledge base revealing specific patterns of miR expression in cardiovascular physiology and pathological states. Specific miRs necessary for embryonic cardiac development have been revealed. Dysregulation of these miRs has been shown to cause structural abnormalities in the heart and vasculature, thus furthering our understanding of the processes which result in CHD. These advances have provided new insight into the signalling pathways responsible for CHD. Furthermore, this new appreciation for miRs in the development of CHD has uncovered their potential for new therapeutic targets where modulated miR activity may reduce the burden of disease. Here, we summarize current knowledge of the cause-effect relationships of miRs in CHD and consider their potential as a therapeutic targets and biomarkers in this clinical setting.