What is an Aptamer?
Nearly 30 years ago, two independent groups, led by Jack Szostak and Larry Gold, developed methods for selecting and amplifying RNA sequences that could bind very specifically to target molecules. Using a technique called systematic evolution of ligands by exponential enrichment (SELEX), some 1010 oligonucleotides could be screened for their affinity to a wide range of non-nucleotide targets. These RNA molecules, which could bind their targets with high specificity and affinity, were eventually called aptamers, from the Latin aptus, meaning “to fit”. SELEX could be used to classify DNA aptamers as well, and over the course of the next two decades, these nucleotide-based ligand binders would prove to be highly adaptable tools.