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The future of aptamers in medicine
  1. Makobetsa Khati1,2
  1. 1Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Biosciences, Pretoria, South Africa
  2. 2Department of Medicine, Groote Schuur Hospital and University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
  1. Correspondence to M Khati, CSIR, Biosciences Unit, PO Box 395, Pretoria 0001, South Africa; Mkhati{at}


Aptamers, simply described as chemical antibodies, are synthetic oligonucleotide ligands or peptides that can be isolated in vitro against diverse targets including toxins, bacterial and viral proteins, virus-infected cells, cancer cells and whole pathogenic microorganisms. Aptamers assume a defined three-dimensional structure and generally bind functional sites on their respective targets. They possess the molecular recognition properties of monoclonal antibodies in terms of their high affinity and specificity. The applications of aptamers range from diagnostics and biosensing, target validation, targeted drug delivery, therapeutics, templates for rational drug design to biochemical screening of small molecule leads compounds. This review describes recent progress made in the application of biomedically relevant aptamers and relates them to their future clinical prospects.

  • Antibodies
  • biochemistry
  • chemical pathology
  • diagnostics
  • DNA

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  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; externally peer reviewed.