Given the high morbidity and mortality of cardiovascular diseases (CVDs), novel biomarkers for platelet reactivity are urgently needed. Ischemic events in CVDs are causally linked to platelets, small anucleate cells important for hemostasis. The major side-effect of antiplatelet therapy are life-threatening bleeding events. Current platelet function tests are not sufficient in guiding treatment decisions. Platelets host a broad spectrum of microRNAs (miRNAs) and are a major source of cell-free miRNAs in the blood stream. Platelet-related miRNAs have been suggested as biomarkers of platelet activation and assessment of antiplatelet therapy responsiveness. Platelets release miRNAs upon activation, possibly leading to alterations of plasma miRNA levels in conjunction with CVD or inadequate platelet inhibition. Unlike current platelet function tests, which measure platelet activation ex vivo, signatures of platelet-related miRNAs potentially enable the assessment of in vivo platelet reactivity. Evidence suggests that some miRNAs are responsive to platelet inhibition, making them promising biomarker candidates. In this review, we explain the secretion of miRNAs upon platelet activation and discuss the potential use of platelet-related miRNAs as biomarkers for CVD and antiplatelet therapy monitoring, but also highlight remaining gaps in our knowledge and uncertainties regarding clinical utility. We also elaborate on technical issues and limitations concerning plasma miRNA quantification.
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