This release is available in German.
Leipzig: Research and industry are increasingly exploiting the potential of aptamers. As well as their application in research, medical diagnosis and treatment, aptamers are also interesting as a basis for biosensors for use in environmental analysis because their characteristics enable them to identify and bind target molecules as surely as a key fits a lock. In a new book, researchers at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) describe the methods used to obtain aptamers. A newly-approved project aims to develop new nanostructured biosensors to measure harmful substances in water.
The term aptamer means something like "fitting pieces" (from the Latin word aptus, meaning to fit, and the Greek word meros, meaning piece). Aptamers consist of nucleic acids and have a three-dimensional structure that enables them to identify and bind certain target molecules. These binding abilities allow, for instance, tracing, detecting and measuring certain substances. For this purpose aptamers can be used in e.g. biosensors. Biosensors are a simple, quick, low-cost way of taking measurements. At the heart of all biosensors there is a biologically active component. This bioreceptor has the ability to interact with its target substance, producing a signal in the process. Signal transducers in the sensor make the signal measurable and visible. Once measurement has taken place, the biosensor is returned to its original state. In other words, it can be regenerated.
To design biosensors, scientists need suitable bioreceptors that can identify the target substance. Aptamers offer great potential for use as biological recognition elements in biosensors. Firstly, however, the scientists have to identify the right aptamer for a particular target molecule. Such target molecules can be very complex structures, like
|Contact: Tilo Arnhold|
Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres