Today's world population is currently faced with a new type of non-transmissible pandemic: obesity. This lifestyle-related condition is driving the emergence of the diabetes pandemic through the development of low-level chronic inflammation. In recent years, a novel class of non-coding RNA, microRNA (miRNA), have emerged as being important regulators of numerous biological functions. Among these functions are basic maintenance of cell signalling and tissue architecture. Disruption of miRNA levels can contribute not only to the development of the chronic inflammation observed in obese diabetics, but also the development of both pancreatic β-cell dysfunction and loss, along with insulin resistance in metabolic tissues. These primary events set the scene for dysfunction of other tissues, including the retina, kidney, peripheral nerves, heart and the vasculature as a whole. Here, miRNAs again play a deterministic role in the development of a range of diseases collectively termed diabetic complications. Disturbances in miRNA levels appear to be reflected in the serum of patients and this may prove to be diagnostic in patients prior to clinical manifestation of disease, thus improving management of diabetes and its associated complications. Not only are miRNAs displaying promise as an early biomarker for disease, but a number of these miRNAs are displaying therapeutic potential with several in pre-clinical development. The present review aims to highlight our current understanding of miRNAs and their interaction with inflammatory signalling in the development and progression of diabetes and its complications. Utilization of miRNAs as biomarkers and therapeutic targets will also be considered.

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