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What are aptamers and why are they growing in popularity?
Aptamers are RNA or DNA oligonucleotides (or peptides) that, through their 3-dimensional structures, bind to specific target molecules with high affinity and specificity. They are often identified using a technique such as SELEX (Systematic Evolution of Ligands by EXponential enrichment), where oligos with increased affinity and specificity to the target molecules are isolated from the sequence pool after several rounds of selection.
These molecules can serve as a substitute for antibodies used to identify a specific target. They have similar affinities as antibodies for their targets and provide several advantages, including greater stability, easier large-scale production, low immunogenicity, and the ability to target molecules with low antigenicity. Like antibodies, aptamers have a broad range of applications, serving as drugs, diagnostic and therapeutic tools, analytic reagents, and bio-imaging molecules. The sequences are often modified to enhance stability during in vitro and in vivo use.