How can we use biochemistry and nucleic acids for drug development and sensor applications?

Simply put, we develop things that bind to things.  More specifically, we develop nucleic acid oligonucleotides “aptamers” that can bind tightly and specifically to targets of interest.  Some of these targets could be precursors or causes of disease.  Aptamers developed against these targets could inhibit their function thus alleviating the disease. 

Other targets could signal that a disease is possible.  Aptamers developed against these targets could be used as diagnostics to detect their presence in complex mixtures.  Still other potential uses for aptamers include gene regulators (such as synthetic riboswitches), or for targeted drug delivery (such as nanoparticle adjuncts).

Methods to select high affinity aptamers from random pools were first published in 1990 by two independent groups: A. Ellington and J. Szostak (Nature), and C Tuerk and L. Gold (Science). Since that time, aptamers have been raised to bind a wide array of different chemical, biological, or physical conditions including ion deficiency, cancer associated proteins, toxins, and whole pathogenic bacteria (reviewed in Stoltenburg et al. 2007).

This stream is led by the very same A. Ellington above who pioneered aptamer technologies.  We use the methods of  in vitro selection to select aptamers that can bind a wide range of protein targets.


“Participation in the FRI program has given me a new view of science. Instead of doing labs out of a textbook, you are performing your own research the way you want to.”

--Arshia Arshad (2008)

“Being in the aptamer stream has really helped me learn abstract concepts (like PCR, gel electrophoresis, transcription, reverse transcription etc) from my Biology class because I actually get to see and do it. I also learned about the different ways that biological mechanisms can be used for research.”

--Pooja Satya (2008)

  1. The Aptamer Project Site (blog) is now up and running strong.  Visit it at http://aptamerstream.blogspot.com and see the new feed list on the right side of this page.

  1. Open House 2010 for the Aptamer Stream will be held in PAI 214 the first two weeks of October 4th-15th.  Gwen and Brad will be available to answer your questions, provide an introduction to the stream and talk about life in the stream with mentors available.  Times are: Monday from 2p - 3p, Tuesday from 10:30a - 11:30a and Thursday from 2:30p - 3:30p during those two weeks.  Visit the Calendar for more information.


Aptamer Project Site
10% APS for Everyonehttp://aptamerstream.blogspot.com