RNA aptamers as potential pharmaceuticals against infections with African trypanosomes

H. U. Göringer, M. Homann, M. Zacharias, A. Adler

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Protozoal pathogens cause symptomatic as well as asymptomatic infections. They have a worldwide impact, which in part is reflected in the long-standing search for antiprotozoal chemotherapy. Unfortunately, effective treatments for the different diseases are by and large not available. This is especially true for African trypanosomiasis, also known as sleeping sickness. The disease is an increasing problem in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa, which is due to the lack of new therapeutics and the increasing resistance against traditional drugs such as melarsoprol, berenil and isometamidium. Considerable progress has been made over the past 10 years in the development of nucleic acid-based drug molecules using a variety of different technologies. One approach is a combinatorial technology that involves an iterative Darwinian-type in vitro evolution process, which has been termed SELEX for "systematic evolution of ligands by exponential enrichment". The procedure is a highly efficient method of identifying rare ligands from combinatorial nucleic acid libraries of very high complexity. It allows the selection of nucleic acid molecules with desired functions, and it has been instrumental in the identification of a number of synthetic DNA and RNA molecules, so-called aptamers that recognize ligands of different chemical origin. Aptamers typically bind their target with high affinity and high specificity and have successfully been converted into pharmaceutically active compounds. Here we summarize the recent examples of the SELEX technique within the context of identifying high-affinity RNA ligands against the surface of the protozoan parasite Trypanosoma brucei, which is the causative agent of sleeping sickness.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRNA Towards Medicine
PublisherSpringer Science and Business Media, LLC
Number of pages19
ISBN (Print)9783540272618
StatePublished - 2006
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameHandbook of Experimental Pharmacology
ISSN (Print)0171-2004
ISSN (Electronic)1865-0325


  • African sleeping sickness
  • African trypanosomes
  • Nucleic acid aptamers


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