. 24/7 Space News .
New DNA/RNA Tool to Diagnose, Treat Diseases
by Staff Writers
Greenbelt MD (SPX) Mar 30, 2016

The AM Biotechnologies' X-Aptamer Selection kit is simple enough for freshman undergraduates to use and takes only a few days to achieve results. Image courtesy AM Biotechnologies LLC. For a larger version of this image please go here.

If NASA is going to send astronauts on years-long missions, the agency will need new and better tools to monitor whether the men and women are healthy along the way. One company has developed a tool that could make comprehensive diagnostics at long distances a reality for NASA - and it has big potential to advance medicine on Earth, too.

Currently, Earth-based researchers keep track of things like white blood cell counts and cholesterol and cortisol levels, dubbed "biomarkers," with tests that use special proteins called antibodies. But the antibodies have a short, three- to six-month shelf life and can be ruined by the high levels of radiation in space, making them ill-suited for such missions.

Research from the 1990s suggested an alternative: single strands of RNA and DNA that can be folded into three-dimensional structures and, like antibodies, bind to specific molecules. These structures, called aptamers, can be stored at ambient temperatures without degrading and are impervious to radiation.

One Hundred Trillion Options
There are, however, drawbacks to using aptamers for diagnostics. For one, making them is a time-consuming, complicated process. Furthermore, until recently aptamers haven't been as good as antibodies at sticking to target molecules.

"They didn't bind well enough - they weren't specific enough for their targets," explains Mark Shumbera, president of AM Biotechnologies LLC, based in Houston. "Certain chemical modifications needed to be added to their DNA to make them work better."

A standard aptamer process starts by placing a target molecule into a solution holding one hundred trillion random RNA/DNA sequences. Some sequences will bond well with the target molecule, while others won't - or will bond only weakly. The successful sequences are then separated and copied through a chain reaction to create another, more refined solution, in a process that is repeated up to 15 times.

This technique, called systemic evolution of ligands by exponential enrichment, or SELEX, often requires many chemical modifications to best tailor aptamers to bind to target substances. However, scientists are limited in how many chemical modifications they can make, in part because the chain reaction "doesn't work very efficiently like that," says Shumbera. "So typically, people only use one, and maybe two modifications at a time."

AM Biotechnologies' X-Aptamer Selection Kit
In part through NASA Small Business Innovation Research funding from Johnson Space Center, in 2007 AM Biotechnologies advanced a faster, simplified method for creating aptamers that bond strongly to their target molecule. The company calls these next-generation aptamers X-Aptamers.

The new, faster method uses a proprietary process to synthesize a library of 10 billion RNA/DNA sequences, including both natural and heavily modified sequences, onto microbeads, which are then used to develop aptamers with an affinity for particular molecules, such as the biomarkers NASA is interested in. The bead-based method removes the previous limitations on allowable chemical modifications and simplifies the manufacturing process.

"You can have 50 modifications in a sequence - there is virtually no limit," Shumbera says. "This method allows for the DNA or RNA to be more chemically diverse, meaning there's a better chance of creating a molecule with a particularly high affinity and specificity for the target."

Building the Future of Medicine
The process is now in use by the company, which has also made it commercially available so anyone can make their own aptamers. The kit is so simple that anyone with basic biochemistry lab skills can use it easily, Shumbera says. "We have university customers, our prototype users, who have freshmen undergraduates select X-Aptamers using our kits. The bead-based process simplifies aptamer selection tremendously."

In addition to helping diagnose diseases, X-Aptamers could also be used to carry and attach a chemotherapy drug to a tumor, sparing other parts of the body from receiving the treatment. "It could help usher in the next big revolution in terms of how we diagnose and treat patients," Shumbera says.

One aptamer drug, Pegaptanib, has already gotten FDA approval, and Shumbera believes diagnostic applications aren't far behind. He sees a bright future for aptamers, especially for NASA uses. The agency is working with other companies to create a hardware platform that can perform analysis in space, helping to diagnose and possibly treat ailments while astronauts are thousands or millions of miles from Earth.

To learn more about this NASA spinoff, read the original article from Spinoff 2016.

Thanks for being here;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.
SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once

credit card or paypal
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5 Billed Monthly

paypal only


Related Links
Technology at NASA
Space Tourism, Space Transport and Space Exploration News

Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Previous Report
Space-Related Budget Requests for FY17
Bethesda MD (SPX) Mar 29, 2016
Last month, the President submitted his final budget requests to Congress for Fiscal Year 2017. The unclassified space-related funding requests that impact U.S. space activities in exploration, commerce and national security are addressed here. The principal agencies that are affected are NASA, FAA and DOD. The total budget request for NASA is $19 Billion. Of this total $790 million have b ... read more

Ancient Polar Ice Reveals Tilting of Earth's Moon

The Lunar Race That Isn't

Permanent Lunar Colony Possible in 10 Years

China to use data relay satellite to explore dark side of moon

Mars Express keeps watch on frosty Martian valleys

HiRISE: 45,000 Mars Orbits and Counting

Opportunity moves to new locations to the southwest

NASA: Manned mission to Mars still 'long way' off

ASU to develop the next generation science education courseware for NASA

Space-Related Budget Requests for FY17

NASA Selects American Small Business, Research Institution Projects for Continued Development

British bacon sandwich en route to ISS tastes out of this world

China's 1st space lab Tiangong-1 ends data service

China's aim to explore Mars

China to establish first commercial rocket launch company

China's ambition after space station

Cargo ship reaches space station on resupply run

Unmanned Cygnus cargo ship launches to ISS on resupply run: NASA

Cygnus Set to Deliver Its Largest Load of Station Science, Cargo

Three new members join crew of International Space Station

MHI signs H-IIA launch deal for UAE Mars mission

Launch of Dragon Spacecraft to ISS Postponed Until April

ILS and INMARSAT Agree To Future Proton Launch

Soyuz 2-1B Carrier Rocket Launched From Baikonur

Oddball planet raises questions about origins of 'hot Jupiters'

Most eccentric planet ever known flashes astronomers with reflected light

VLA shows earliest stages of planet formation

VLA observes earliest stages of planet formation

Uncovering bacterial role in platinum formation

'Invulnerable' coatings for cutting tools from gas

Lockheed Martin Opens Space Fence Test Facility

New way to control particle motions on 2-D materials

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2024 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Statement Our advertisers use various cookies and the like to deliver the best ad banner available at one time. All network advertising suppliers have GDPR policies (Legitimate Interest) that conform with EU regulations for data collection. By using our websites you consent to cookie based advertising. If you do not agree with this then you must stop using the websites from May 25, 2018. Privacy Statement. Additional information can be found here at About Us.