Introduction: Liver fibrosis is the excessive accumulation of extracellular matrix that occurs by activation of hepatic stellate cells (HSCs), which has been identified as the major driver of liver fibrosis. Several studies confirmed that miRNAs have regulatory effects on the activation of HSCs by affecting the signaling pathways. The aim of this study was to develop non-invasive diagnostic markers by measuring different circulating miRNAs in serum as predictor markers for early diagnosis of liver fibrosis and its progression.

Methods: In this case-control study, we enrolled 66 subjects with chronic hepatitis C (CHC) with early stage of fibrosis and 65 subjects with CHC with late-stage fibrosis.  Also, 40 subjects were included as normal controls. The six main miRNAs, i.e., miR-138, miR-140, miR-143, miR-325, miR-328, and miR-349, were measured using the reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction.

Results: In the cases of CHC both with early and late stage of fibrosis, the circulating levels of the six main miRNAs were significantly higher than the levels in the control group. ROC analysis indicated that the sensitivity and specificity of miR-138 were 89.3% and 71.43%, respectively, in the early stage of fibrosis. In the late stage, the sensitivity and specificity of miR-138 were 89.3 and 93.02%, respectively, whereas, for miR-143, they were 75.0 and 88.4%, respectively.

Conclusions: Circulating miR-138 could serve as a non-invasive biomarker for the detection of early fibrosis. Also, miR-138 and miR-143 could be specific biomarkers for indicating the late stage of liver fibrosis.


Keywords: liver fibrosis, microRNAs, chronic hepatitis C, hepatic stellate cell
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