A small compound called an aptamer that specifically targets and stimulates a human immune cell can greatly increase the effectiveness of an immunotherapeutic drug designed to destroy malignant or virus-infected cells. The development of a novel apatamer that recognizes activated T-lymphocytes and can boost the therapeutic effect of cell-based vaccines is described in an article in Nucleic Acid Therapeutics, a peer-reviewed journal from Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. publishers. The article is available on the Nucleic Acid Therapeutics website.*
Elizabeth Pratico, Bruce Sullenger, and Smita Nair, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC, describe the innovative techniques they used to create an aptamer – a short sequence of nucleic acids – that binds to the human protein OX40,** a costimulatory molecule present on the surface of already activated immune cells.
In the article “Identification and Characterization of an Agonistic Aptamer Against the T Cell Costimulatory Receptor, OX40,” *the researchers demonstrate that binding of the aptamer to OX40 on activated T cells enhances the cells’ ability to proliferate and to produce the immunostimulatory cytokine interferon-gamma. The authors envision future studies that would evaluate the therapeutic potential of the human OX40 aptamer, which could be used to stimulate T cells during the production of patient-specific vaccines for use in cell therapy and personalized medicine.
“The therapeutic potential of aptamers has always been one of their most promising aspects,” says Executive Editor Fintan Steele, PhD, SomaLogic, Inc., Boulder, CO. “This elegant work by the Duke team underlines that promise while extending it into the critical area of immunotherapy.”