Miretti, S., Lecchi, C., Ceciliani, F. et al. 2020. MicroRNAs as biomarkers for animal health and welfare in livestock. Frontiers in Veterinary Science 7, 578193.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small and highly conserved non-coding RNA molecules that orchestrate a wide range of biological processes through the post-transcriptional regulation of gene expression. An intriguing aspect in identifying these molecules as biomarkers is derived from their role in cell-to-cell communication, their active secretion from cells into the extracellular environment, their high stability in body fluids, and their ease of collection. All these features confer on miRNAs the potential to become a non-invasive tool to score animal welfare. There is growing interest in the importance of miRNAs as biomarkers for assessing the welfare of livestock during metabolic, environmental, and management stress, particularly in ruminants, pigs, and poultry. This review provides an overview of the current knowledge regarding the potential use of tissue and/or circulating miRNAs as biomarkers for the assessment of the health and welfare status in these livestock species.