Aptamers are small nucleic acids that can be used in medical applications and as means of detecting specific molecules. This is because these nucleic acids behave like antibodies and recognize specific molecules. Aptamers can also function in the body either outside or inside cells. We are developing the use of aptamers to increase the effectiveness of anticancer and other drugs for medical treatment and to image cells like stem cells. We are also using aptamers to develop new monitoring methods for drugs of abuse and to monitor toxins in the environment.
Program mentor: Marit Nilsen-Hamilton, faculty scientist, Ames Laboratory