MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are a class of small non-coding RNAs that regulate gene expression by binding mRNA targets via sequence complementary inducing translational repression and/or mRNA degradation. A current challenge in the field of miRNA biology is to understand the functionality of miRNAs under physiopathological conditions. Recent evidence indicates that miRNA expression is more complex than simple regulation at the transcriptional level. MiRNAs undergo complex post-transcriptional regulations such miRNA processing, editing, accumulation and re-cycling within P-bodies. They are dynamically regulated and have a well-orchestrated spatiotemporal localization pattern. Real-time and spatio-temporal analyses of miRNA expression are difficult to evaluate and often underestimated. Therefore, important information connecting miRNA expression and function can be lost. Conventional miRNA profiling methods such as Northern blot, real-time PCR, microarray, in situ
hybridization and deep sequencing continue to contribute to our knowledge of miRNA biology. However, these methods can seldom shed light on the spatiotemporal organization and function of miRNAs in real-time. Non-invasive molecular imaging methods have the potential to address these issues and are thus attracting increasing attention. This paper reviews the state-of-the-art of methods used to detect miRNAs and discusses their contribution in the emerging field of miRNA biology and therapy.
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