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Clin Chem. 1999 Sep;45(9):1628-50.

Aptamers: an emerging class of molecules that rival antibodies in diagnostics.

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NeXstar Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 2860 Wilderness Place, Boulder, CO 80301, USA.


Antibodies, the most popular class of molecules providing molecular recognition needs for a wide range of applications, have been around for more than three decades. As a result, antibodies have made substantial contributions toward the advancement of diagnostic assays and have become indispensable in most diagnostic tests that are used routinely in clinics today. The development of the systematic evolution of ligands by exponential enrichment (SELEX) process, however, made possible the isolation of oligonucleotide sequences with the capacity to recognize virtually any class of target molecules with high affinity and specificity. These oligonucleotide sequences, referred to as "aptamers", are beginning to emerge as a class of molecules that rival antibodies in both therapeutic and diagnostic applications. Aptamers are different from antibodies, yet they mimic properties of antibodies in a variety of diagnostic formats. The demand for diagnostic assays to assist in the management of existing and emerging diseases is increasing, and aptamers could potentially fulfill molecular recognition needs in those assays. Compared with the bellwether antibody technology, aptamer research is still in its infancy, but it is progressing at a fast pace. The potential of aptamers may be realized in the near future in the form of aptamer-based diagnostic products in the market. In such products, aptamers may play a key role either in conjunction with, or in place of, antibodies. It is also likely that existing diagnostic formats may change according to the need to better harness the unique properties of aptamers.

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