In this introductory chapter, we will discuss examples of tissue and cell type-specific knockdown of components of the microRNA machinery and their deleterious effects. We discuss the genetic organization of microRNAs and how that architecture is designed to regulate multiple targets within regulatory pathways, and their role in adaptive regulation in response to changes in the microenvironment. We discuss microRNA networks in specific tissue and organ diseases, including lung, heart, and skeletal muscle, as well as the role for microRNAs in modulating cancers in those tissues. We introduce newer research-linking shifts in microRNA expression with biological aging and diseases associated with aging. We explore the potential role for microRNAs as therapeutic tools to modulate target RNA sequences implicated in disease states. Finally, we discuss the utility of microRNAs as circulating biomarkers for disease risk and severity, as well as therapeutic response to candidate drug interventions.
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