However, the authors did not compare the expression of IFN-induced miRNAs in the liver and in the PBMCs collected from the same patients with CHC undergoing IFN treatment. In addition, Meier and co-authors reported recently that those while IFN-alpha treatment led to the induction of type I IFN regulated genes in PBMCs, such an induction appeared not to occur in the livers of patients with hepatitis C, which suggests that the mechanism by which IFN-alpha treatment causes viral clearance might be independent of hepatic activation of type I IFN regulated genes . All this indicates more clearly the complexities of the analysed phenomena and the difficulties in interpreting our data. A better understanding of the regulation of HCV-specific miRNA induction both in the liver and in PBMCs is required to shed light on these important and critical issues.
Unfortunately, we consider that no firm conclusions can be drawn with regard to the relationship between baseline or IFN-induced miRNA expression and the clinical outcome of IFN alpha therapy in patients with CHC. The limitations of this study included the relatively small number of patients with CHC on whom miRNA analyses were performed. Indeed, although we found differences in IFN-induced miRNA expression between healthy controls and patients with CHC, as well as between responder and non-responder, the results often did not reach statistical significance thus limiting the potential application of these data. Furthermore, the size of samples was just enough to perform all the experiments shown in the present study, and the expression of other IFN-induced pathways that would have been of interest could not be evaluated.
Another possible source of bias derives from the fact that, for ethical reasons, we collected only one blood sample after the IFN alpha therapy began. We consider that a more extensive analysis of IFN-induced miRNAs, including blood samples collected from CHC patients at multiple time points after therapy started, would allow the provision of a more careful analysis of the phenomenon, possibly by exploring the intriguing results we have obtained. Indeed, since it has been demonstrated that there is a significant Dacomitinib induction of IFN-induced genes between 12 and 24 hours after IFN administration [9-14,23,29], it is possible that taking samples earlier would provide additional results, as suggested by Sarasin-filipowicz and co-authors . This study extends previous investigations into the activation of the IFN system in patients with CHC and, specifically, the ability of type I IFN to regulate miRNA expression [4,27]. In particular, we have demonstrated that IFN alpha in-vitro treatment of PBMCs leads to transcriptional induction of miRNAs.