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Theranostic Aptamers

We are working on a new approach for the design of drugs based on DNA and RNA; such drugs are known as “aptamers”. Our approach is computational, and is driven by concepts from the field of information theory. This approach will overcome many of the problems with the conventional experimental method for developing aptamers. Based on this method, we will design both therapeutic and diagnostic (“theranostic”) aptamers that have potential to augment chemotherapy and diagnose the corresponding effects in cancer treatment and test them in laboratory experiments.

The early detection of tumor response to chemotherapy would have a huge clinical benefit. It would give physicians information that could result in a change to a more effective therapy, and could also improve quality of life by not subjecting patients to chemotherapy when such therapy is not effective. Furthermore, there are many other potential benefits to be derived from this research. Diagnostic aptamers could be beneficial for other human health situations, such as during organ transplantation, and therapeutic aptamers could be useful for other human pathologies, including neurological disorders and cardiovascular disease.


C-Y Tseng, M. Ashrafuzzaman, J.Y. Mane, J. Kapty, J.R. Mercer, and J.A. Tuszynski, Entropic fragment based approach to aptamer design, Chemical Biology and Drug Design 78:1-13 (2011). doi:10.1111/j.1747-0285.2011.01125.x