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New clinical platform may accelerate discovery of diagnostic and therapeutic agents

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IMAGE: Researchers at University of British Columbia have developed a new technology that enables rapid discovery of aptamers, one of the fastest growing classes of diagnostic and therapeutic agents. Aptamers are... view more

Credit: Julius Csotonyi

Researchers at University of British Columbia have developed a new technology that enables rapid discovery of aptamers, one of the fastest growing classes of diagnostic and therapeutic agents. Aptamers are short sequences of genetic material that fold into precise 3-D structures that bind target molecules and inhibit their biological functions.

In a recent Biotechnology and Bioengineering article, the investigators describe their aptamer selection platform, called high-fidelity systematic evolution of ligands by exponential enrichment (Hi-Fi SELEX), that accelerates and improves selection of DNA aptamers by ameliorating several limitations of current methods used for aptamer discovery. The platform is engineered to greatly enhance the diversity of the starting collection of aptamers and the ability to rapidly enrich aptamers of therapeutic relevance, while also enabling their high-fidelity amplification and regeneration.

"As a technology development lab, we looked under-the-hood of available aptamer discovery platforms to determine precisely why they often do not yield functionally or therapeutically useful reagents. Through that effort we identified a number of issues that greatly limit performance and then worked to ameliorate those impediments using a combination of chemical modification methods and advanced enzymatic and processing strategies available in our labs," said senior author Dr. Charles Haynes. "One of the great strengths of the resulting Hi-Fi SELEX platform is its ability to enhance the functional diversity of the library, which greatly improves the odds of discovering useful molecules."

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