Novel aptamer increases immune response to vaccines

A small compound called an aptamer that targets and stimulates human immune cells may increase the effectiveness of immunotherapeutic drugs, according to a recent study conducted by Duke University researchers.

Elizabeth D. Pratico, a postdoctoral scholar at Duke University Medical Center, and her team developed an agnostic aptamer to target human costimulatory molecules known as OX40 on newly activated T cells. In the study, the OX40 aptamer was able to stimulate OX40 on T cells to increase cell proliferation and interferon production, Nucleic Acid Therapeutics reports.

The researchers said that engineering aptamers could be used to reduce inflammation and treat inflammatory disorders.

"OX40-mediated signaling plays an important role in exacerbating the effects of certain inflammatory diseases such as experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis, collagen-induced arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, and graft-versus-host disease," the researchers said, according to Nucleic Acid Therapeutics. "Blocking of OX40-OX40L by an aptamer, an antibody, or another small molecule may help to alleviate the symptoms associated with inflammation...An engineered monomeric form of the OX40 aptamer that does not trigger the signaling cascade associated with inflammation could potentially be used to prevent the OX40-OX40L interaction and as a potential treatment of such inflammatory disorders."

Fintan Steele, the executive director of communications at SomaLogic, Inc. in Boulder, Colo., said the work shows promise in the area of immunotherapy, Nucleic Acid Therapeutics reports.

"The therapeutic potential of aptamers has always been one of their most promising aspects," Steele said, according to Nucleic Acid Therapeutics. "This elegant work by the Duke team underlines that promise while extending it into the critical area of immunotherapy."

The study was recently published in Nucleic Acid Therapeutics.