The role of miR-21 in the pathogenesis of various liver diseases, together with the possibility of detecting microRNA in the circulation, makes miR-21 a potential biomarker for noninvasive detection. In this review, we summarize the potential utility of extracellular miR-21 in the clinical management of hepatic disease patients and compared it with the current clinical practice. MiR-21 shows screening and prognostic value for liver cancer. In liver cirrhosis, miR-21 may serve as a biomarker for the differentiating diagnosis and prognosis. MiR-21 is also a potential biomarker for the severity of hepatitis. We elucidate the disease condition under which miR-21 testing can reach the expected performance. Though miR-21 is a key regulator of liver diseases, microRNAs coordinate with each other in the complex regulatory network. As a result, the performance of miR-21 is better when combined with other microRNAs or classical biomarkers under certain clinical circumstances.

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