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Evaluation of quantitative miRNRNA expression platforms in the microRNRNA quality control (miRQC) study

27 June 2014 Ghent University

Ghent University researchers dr Mestdagh and prof Vandesompele publish the results from the international miRQC study in Nature Methods. This study helps other researchers to assess the technical performance of laboratory methods to study small RNA molecules.

RNA (ribonucleic acid) is the chemical origin of life. Several classes of RNA molecules exist, whereby microRNAs are among the shortest RNA molecules produced by a living human cell. Despite being small, they play a major role in regulating the expression of much longer protein-coding messenger RNAs. MicroRNA expression levels are altered during the course of human disease and these alterations can be observed in diseased tissues as well as in patient body fluids such as serum or plasma. As such, microRNAs have become attractive candidate disease biomarkers as well as targets for novel therapeutic intervention.

Detection and quantification of such small RNAs is challenging and requires state of the art lab instrumentation that enables reliable microRNA quantification. Over the last decade, several microRNA expression level profiling technologies have been developed. However, their performance was never thoroughly evaluated. In the microRNA quality control (miRQC) study, researchers from Ghent University teamed up with all major commercial providers of microRNA profiling technology to assess the performance of 12 different microRNA profiling platforms. By evaluating different aspects of platform performance such as specificity, sensitivity, accuracy and reproducibility, the miRQC study demonstrates that the optimal choice of platform strongly depends on the specific goal of the microRNA profiling experiment. While some platforms are more sensitive, a feature that is of particular importance when profiling microRNAs in body fluids, others are more reproducible and enable the detection of small microRNA expression changes. As such, results from the miRQC study should assist researchers in selecting a microRNA expression profiling platform in function of their particular study goals.

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