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“Zone in with Zon”—Aptamers May Be Superior to Antibodies

Dr. Gerald Zon’s latest “Zone in with Zon” blog post, dated November 4, 2013, and published by TriLink BioTechnologies of San Diego, suggests that aptamers may actually be superior to Mother Nature’s antibodies. Dr. Zon said that aptamers were first discovered approximately 20 years ago and are nucleic acids or peptides that bind to a specific target molecule. RNA or DNA aptamers are usually created from a large pool (library) of random sequences. However, he also pointed out that natural RNA aptamers exist in riboswitches. Dr. Zon noted that aptamers have “been used for an impressively wide variety of applications in either basic research or, especially, health-related diagnostics and therapeutics. This remarkable utility is clearly reflected in the publication statistics—since their discovery in 1990, there have been ~11,000 publications indexed to DNA or RNA aptamers in SciFinder with a projected average rate of ~5 per day in 2013! More than 1,600 of these publications are patents, which is a stunning testament to the commercial potential of aptamers.” Dr. Zon went on to describe how in 1990, two independent laboratories separately described different methods for RNA selection, without using an RNA replicase. One method was published in Science by Drs. Craig Turk and Larry Gold, and the other was published in Nature by Drs. Andrew D. Ellington and Jack W. Szostak Dr. Zon went on to note that the vast body of literature covering basic research and numerous applications of nucleic acid aptamers is a stunning testament to the enabling power of these molecules, and to the myriad of expanded types of aptamers and aptamer-generation methods. He described different aptamer selection methods, different ways they can be used in targeting cells, a variety of ways they can be used in therapeutics, diagnostics, and food safety, and even in the battle againt cancer. He particularly noted the comment of a prominent cancer research who believes that aptamers are key to targeting cancer stem cells, which he believes to be the root of cancer. Dr. Zon concludes by descrbing some of the most recent breakthroughs in aptamer technology and expressing his opinion that “overall, I think that applications of aptamers will out-pace antibodies based on inherently greater structural diversity that can be obtained chemically, as opposed to biologically, and with a much more limited set of amino acid/analog ‘building blocks.’ Other advantages, as noted by Base Pair Biotechnologies, include more economical production—especially in GMP grade—flexible ‘fine tuning’ for desired bio-distribution, and stability or shelf-life. High-throughput sequencing and related bioinformatics will likely continue to enable new and improved aptamer selection methods, as exemplified by the recent work of Hoon et al., who used one such approach to develop a novel method for selecting high-affinity DNA aptamers based on a single round of selection.” Dr. Zon does recommend that readers interested in obtaining verified random sequences, check out his company, TriLink Biotechnologies (http://zon.trilinkbiotech.com/about-trilink/), which he believes to be the only supplier of random sequences that have been verified by high-throughput applications. Please refer to the entire blog to see all of Dr. Zon’s comments on the bright future of aptamers. Dr. Zon is an eminent nucleic acid chemist and Director of Business Development at TriLink BioTechnologies in San Diego, California. The entirety of Dr. Zon’s blog can be viewed at the link below. [Zon blog post]