MicroRNAs (miRNAs) have emerged as key regulators orchestrating a wide range of inflammatory and fibrotic diseases. However, the role of miRNAs in degenerative shoulder joint disorders is poorly understood. The aim of this explorative case‐control study was to identify pathology‐related, circulating miRNAs in patients with chronic rotator cuff tendinopathy and degenerative rotator cuff tears (RCT). In 2017, 15 patients were prospectively enrolled and assigned to three groups based on the diagnosed pathology: (i) no shoulder pathology, (ii) chronic rotator cuff tendinopathy, and (iii) degenerative RCTs. In total, 14 patients were included. Venous blood samples (“liquid biopsies”) were collected from each patient and serum levels of 187 miRNAs were determined. Subsequently, the change in expression of nine candidate miRNAs was verified in tendon biopsy samples, collected from patients who underwent arthroscopic shoulder surgery between 2015 and 2018. Overall, we identified several miRNAs to be progressively deregulated in sera from patients with either chronic rotator cuff tendinopathy or degenerative RCTs. Importantly, for the several of these miRNAs candidates repression was also evident in tendon biopsies harvested from patients who were treated for a supraspinatus tendon tear. As similar expression profiles were determined for tendon samples, the newly identified systemic miRNA signature has potential as novel diagnostic or prognostic biomarkers for degenerative rotator cuff pathologies.
Keywords: biomarker; circulating microRNA; rotator cuff; tendinopathy; tendon degeneration