Circulating MicroRNA-15a Associates With Retinal Damage in Patients With Early Stage Type 2 Diabetes

Elena Sangalli*, Elena Tagliabue*, Lucia La Sala, F Pratichizzo, A Uccellatore, D Spada, F Lorino, P de Candia, S Lupini, L Cantone, C Favero, Paolo R Madeddu, V Bollati, S Genovese, Gaia Spinetti

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

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Circulating microRNAs are potential biomarkers of type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) and related complications. Here, we investigated the association of microRNA-15a with early retinal damage in T2DM. A cohort of untreated subjects screened for intermediate/high risk of T2DM, according to a score assessment questionnaire, and then recognized to have a normal (NGT) or impaired (IGT) glucose tolerance or T2DM was studied. The thickness of the ganglion cell complex (GCC), an early marker of retinal degeneration anteceding overt retinopathy was assessed by Optical Coherence Tomography. Total and extracellular vesicles (EV)-associated microRNA-15a quantity was measured in plasma by real time PCR. MicroRNA-15a level was significantly higher in subjects with IGT and T2DM compared with NGT. MicroRNA-15a abundance was correlated to body mass index and classical diabetes biomarkers, including fasting glucose, HbA1c, insulinemia, and HOMA-IR. Moreover, GCC thickness was significantly reduced in IGT and T2DM subjects compared with NGT controls. Importantly, total microRNA-15a correlated with GCC in IGT subjects, while in T2DM subjects, EV-microRNA-15a negatively correlated with GCC, suggesting that microRNA-15a may monitor initial retinal damage. The assessment of plasma microRNA-15a may help refining risk assessment and secondary prevention in patients with preclinical T2DM.
Original languageEnglish
Article number254
Number of pages8
JournalFrontiers in Endocrinology
Publication statusPublished - 23 Apr 2020


  • prediction and prevention of type 2 diabetes
  • retinopathy
  • microvascular disease
  • microRNA-15a
  • extracellular vesicles


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