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Int J Mol Epidemiol Genet 2011;2(3):253-260

Review Article
MicroRNAs: their discovery, biogenesis, function and potential use as
biomarkers in non-invasive prenatal diagnostics

Michael R. Ladomery, Deborah G. Maddocks, Ian D. Wilson

Centre for Research in Bioscience, Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, University of the West of England, Coldharbour Lane,
Bristol BS16 1QY, UK

Received April 15, 2011; accepted July 29, 2011; Epub August 3, 2011; published August 30, 2011

Abstract: MicroRNAs are a widespread class of small non-coding RNAs that have the ability to silence gene expression
through sequence complementarity. We describe their initial discovery in the nematode C.elegans and review what is currently
known about their biogenesis. We do not yet fully understand what regulates the expression and processing of microRNAs and
how microRNAs locate their correct targets. MicroRNAs are involved in a multitude of developmental and pathological
processes leading to an explosion of research in disparate subject areas. Placentally expressed microRNAs can be detected in
the maternal plasma and we discuss their potential use as biomarkers in non-invasive prenatal diagnostics. (IJMEG1103004).

Keywords: Small non-coding RNAs, microRNAs, circulating nucleic acids, maternal plasma biomarkers, prenatal diagnostics

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Address all correspondence to:
Dr. Michael R. Ladomery
Centre for Research in Bioscience
Faculty of Health and Life Sciences
University of the West of England
Coldharbour Lane, Bristol BS16 1QY, UK
E-mail: Michael.Ladomery@uwe.ac.uk