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Nucleic Acid Aptamers: Clinical Applications and Promising New Horizons

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Aptamers are a special class of nucleic acid molecules that are beginning to be investigated for clinical use. These small RNA/DNA molecules can form secondary and tertiary structures capable of specifically binding proteins or other cellular targets; they are essentially a chemical equivalent of antibodies. Aptamers have the advantage of being highly specific, relatively small in size, and non-immunogenic. Since the discovery of aptamers in the early 1990s, great efforts have been made to make them clinically relevant for diseases like cancer, HIV, and macular degeneration. In the last two decades, many aptamers have been clinically developed as inhibitors for targets such as vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and thrombin. The first aptamer based therapeutic was FDA approved in 2004 for the treatment of age-related macular degeneration and several other aptamers are currently being evaluated in clinical trials. With advances in targeted-therapy, imaging, and nanotechnology, aptamers are readily considered as potential targeting ligands because of their chemical synthesis and ease of modification for conjugation. Preclinical studies using aptamer-siRNA chimeras and aptamer targeted nanoparticle therapeutics have been very successful in mouse models of cancer and HIV. In summary aptamers are in several stages of development, from pre-clinical studies to clinical trials and even as FDA approved therapeutics. In this review, we will discuss the current state of aptamers in clinical trials as well as some promising aptamers in pre-clinical development.

Keywords: Aptamers; SELEX; clinical trial; imaging; nanoparticle; oligonucleotides; siRNA; target therapy

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: September 1, 2011

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  • Current Medicinal Chemistry covers all the latest and outstanding developments in medicinal chemistry and rational drug design. Each issue contains a series of timely in-depth reviews written by leaders in the field covering a range of the current topics in medicinal chemistry. Current Medicinal Chemistry is an essential journal for every medicinal chemist who wishes to be kept informed and up-to-date with the latest and most important developments.

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