Expanding the aptamer alphabet

Researchers at the RIKEN Center for Life Science Technologies and TagCyx Biotechnologies have used an expanded genetic alphabet containing unnatural nucleotides to generate DNA aptamers that have 100-fold higher binding affinity for a target protein than counterparts created using only natural nucleotides.1 The group plans to develop the aptamers for diagnostic applications before exploring therapeutic applications.

Nucleic acid aptamers consist of single strands of DNA or RNA and are usually generated via in vitro approaches such as SELEX (systematic evolution of ligands by exponential enrichment), in which aptamers from a library undergo iterative rounds of selection to enrich for aptamers with the highest affinity for a particular target.

However, generating molecules with the desired level of functionality usually is less efficient for nucleic acid

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