Aptamers refer to single-stranded nucleic acids selected from a random oligonucleotide library against a pre-determined target such as proteins, nucleic acids, peptides, toxins, cells, viruses, and small molecules. Aptamers offer many advantages including easy chemical synthesis upon selection, easy introduction of chemical modifications within the sequence or at either end of the sequence, and storage conditions. These advantages make aptamers suitable as alternatives to monoclonal antibodies therapeutic, diagnostic, and analytical agents.
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With increasing interest of scientists in the field of aptamer technology, the Global Aptamers Market is projected to take a leap at a CAGR of 73.1% during the period 2013 to 2019. The overall market was worth US$93.0 mn in 2012 and is estimated to be valued at US$4.3 bn by 2019.
Oligonucleotide Aptamers being Explored as New Tools for Targeted Cancer Therapy
Since the discovery of aptamers in the early 1990s, significant efforts have been made to make them clinically relevant for diseases such as HIV, cancer, and macular degeneration. The first aptamer-based therapeutic approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2004 was for the treatment of age-related macular degeneration. Several other aptamers are presently being evaluated in clinical trials. In terms of applications, the global aptamer market is projected to be driven by the demand from diagnostics and therapeutics development segments.
SELEX technology is used to develop aptamers for cell surface biomarkers. The oligonucleotide aptamers developed with the help of Cell-SELEX technology have boosted personalized cancer research. Traditional cancer treatments such as radiotherapy, chemotherapy, photothermal therapy, and photodynamic therapy can cause adverse side effects in patients owing to their associated nonspecific toxicity. Antibody-mediated targeted cancer therapy is a better alternative as it is highly specific and has fewer side effects. However, the high cost of production and potential immunogenicity limits the clinical applications of antibody-mediated therapy. To overcome these hindrances, oligonucleotide aptamer-based targeted therapeutics have been explored. Research studies have revealed a number of advantages of the aptamer technology over antibody therapies for the treatment of cancer.
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Aptamer-Targeted Nanoparticle Delivery: A Novel Way for Drug Delivery
Nanoparticles, ranging in size from 5-200 nm, are being developed for various medical applications. Nanoparticles have interesting features such as a large surface for enhanced aptamer and drug loading, uniform size and shape for excellent biodistribution, and biocompatibility for clinical applications. Nanoparticles are effective vehicles to increase the half-life as well as the drug-payload capacity of aptamer-mediated drug delivery. Conjugation of aptamers with nanoparticles such as copolymers and liposomes offer an excellent opportunity for drug delivery owing to their enhanced biodegradability and biocompatibility. Nanoparticles also offer exceptional magnetic and photothermal performance.
It would thus be interesting to see how aptamer-targeted nanoparticle delivery would change the future outlook of cancer therapeutics.