Researchers at the Federal University of Sao Paulo (UNIFESP) in Brazil have conducted a study on microRNAs (miRNAs) in extracellular vesicles (EVs) and their association with mental health disorders. The results of the study, published in the journal Translational Psychiatry, suggest that miRNAs in EVs could be used for early diagnosis and treatment of mental health disorders.
MiRNAs are small transcripts that target messenger RNAs and regulate the expression of several genes at once. They are present in biofluids and EVs, which are produced by most cells in the body, including neurons and other nervous system cells. Previous research has linked miRNAs to mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
The study by UNIFESP researchers involved the analysis of miRNAs in EVs from the blood of individuals with mental health disorders, including depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia, and compared them to those of healthy individuals. The researchers found that there were significant differences in the levels of certain miRNAs between the two groups.
According to the lead author of the study, Professor Daniel Martins-de-Souza, “We found that miRNAs associated with depression and anxiety were increased in EVs from individuals with these disorders, while miRNAs associated with schizophrenia were decreased. This suggests that miRNAs in EVs could be used as biomarkers for these disorders.”
The researchers also found that the levels of certain miRNAs in EVs were associated with the severity of symptoms in individuals with mental health disorders. For example, higher levels of miR-451a-5p were associated with more severe symptoms of depression.
The findings of this study have important implications for the diagnosis and treatment of mental health disorders. Currently, mental health disorders are diagnosed based on clinical symptoms, which can be subjective and vary between individuals. Biomarkers such as miRNAs in EVs could provide objective and reliable indicators of mental health disorders.
Furthermore, miRNAs in EVs could be used to develop new treatments for mental health disorders. “MiRNAs can be targeted with drugs to increase or decrease their levels, which could potentially alleviate symptoms of mental health disorders,” explains Professor Martins-de-Souza.
However, further research is needed to confirm these findings and to determine the specificity and sensitivity of miRNAs in EVs as biomarkers for mental health disorders. The researchers also highlight the need for large-scale studies involving diverse populations to validate these findings.