Research Highlight

Tiny RNA molecules as diabetes marker

doi:10.1038/nindia.2015.86 Published online 29 June 2015

Researchers have identified a specific microRNA (miRNA) that has higher serum levels in people with prediabetes and type 2 diabetes than healthy individuals1. Thus, the serum levels of this miRNA could be monitored to predict the risk and onset of type 2 diabetes.

MiRNAs are short stretches of non-coding RNA molecules that negatively regulate the expressions of various genes. While previous studies had linked miRNAs to various cancers, this is the first time that they have been linked to a metabolic disease such as type 2 diabetes.

The researchers monitored the levels of circulating miRNAs in serum samples of non-obese individuals suffering from type 2 diabetes and compared them with those of prediabetic and healthy individuals. They found increased concentrations of an miRNA known as miR-128 in prediabetics and diabetics. They also discovered that the serum level of miR-128 was positively correlated with serum cholesterol levels.

To corroborate the link between miR-128 and diabetes, the scientists measured miR-128 concentrations in the serum of diabetic mice. They found that diabetic mice had higher miR-128 serum concentrations than healthy mice. The serum levels of miR-128 were positively correlated with serum cholesterol levels in mice.

“For the first time, this study shows the biomarker potential of miRNAs, particularly miR-128 in the diagnosis of type 2 diabetes,” says Muthuswamy Balasubramanyam, one of the researchers.


1. Prabu, P. et al. Circulating miRNAs of ‘Asian Indian Phenotype’ identified in subjects with impaired glucose tolerance and patients with type 2 diabetes. PLoS One 10(5) e0128372 (2015)