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Research GroupsIron homeostasis in health and disease

Research Focus 4: MicroRNAs in iron metabolism

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microRNAs (miRNAs) are small regulatory RNAs found in multicellular eukaryotes. miRNAs are transcribed as long precursors (pri-miRNA) which are subsequently processed into mature miRNAs. This recently discovered class of gene products regulates mRNA translation of genes involved in cell growth, proliferation and survival in a sequence-specific manner. It is expected that aberrant miRNA expression contributes to a large number of diseases. We established a novel microarray platform for genome-wide profiling of mature miRNAs (miChip) using Locked Nucleic Acid (LNA)-modified capture probes. The biophysical properties of LNA were exploited to design probe sets for uniform, high affinity hybridizations yielding accurate signals able to discriminate between single nucleotide differences and hence between closely-related miRNA family members. The superior detection sensitivity eliminates the need for RNA size selection and/or amplification and greatly simplifies miRNA expression profiling of biological and clinical samples.

Experiments are ongoing to monitor miRNA expression in disease models of iron metabolism (e.g. HFE-/- mice, mice with dietary iron deficiency or secondary iron overload). This exploratory project may yield interesting novel insights into the role of miRNAs in iron homeostasis.

Additionally, the miChip microarray platform is available for collaborative projects investigating miRNA expression in health and disesase.

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