Identification of Circulating MicroRNA Signatures in Crohn's Disease Using the Nanostring nCounter Technology

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Current clinical indices, such as Harvey–Bradshaw index, are often inadequate for the assessment of disease activity in Crohn's disease (CD). Alternative methods including imaging modalities and laboratory markers, such as C-reactive protein (CRP), are routinely applied to assess disease activity. However, laboratory markers poorly reflect the actual disease activity. Consequently, novel biomarkers represent a clinical necessity for CD patient management. We hypothesized that circulating serum-derived microRNAs may be used as diagnosis and disease activity monitoring tools of CD patients.


To test this hypothesis, we performed microRNA expression profiling through Nanostring nCounter technology in blood serum samples of CD patients and healthy control subjects. Harvey–Bradshaw index score was used to capture clinical disease activity; CRP was measured as part of standard clinical practice. The expression profile of circulating microRNAs and the levels of CRP correlated with Harvey–Bradshaw index.


We identified a signature of 10 circulating microRNAs that are differentially expressed in CD patients compared with healthy control subjects. Two of these microRNAs (hsa-miR-1286 and hsa-miR-1273d) correlated with CD disease activity and exhibited higher correlation values compared with CRP. Further analysis revealed distinct microRNA signatures between CD patients with ileal and colonic involvement.


Circulating microRNAs show superior value as diagnostic and disease activity markers in comparison to traditional methods. Circulating microRNAs could improve CD patient management, if applied in combination with current state-of-the-art diagnostic and disease activity assessment modalities.

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