Fit for the Eye: Aptamers in Ocular Disorders

Nucleic Acid Ther. 2016 Jun;26(3):127-46. doi: 10.1089/nat.2015.0573. Epub 2016 Jan 12.


For any new class of therapeutics, there are certain types of indications that represent a natural fit. For nucleic acid ligands in general, and aptamers in particular, the eye has historically been an attractive site for therapeutic intervention. In this review, we recount the discovery and early development of three aptamers designated for use in ophthalmology, one approved (Macugen), and two in late-stage development (Fovista and Zimura). Every one of these molecules was originally intended for other indications. Key improvements in technology, specifically with regard to libraries used for in vitro selection and subsequent chemical optimization of aptamers, have played an important role in allowing the identification of development candidates with suitable properties. The lessons learned from the selection of these molecules are valuable for informing us about the many remaining opportunities for aptamer-based therapeutics in ophthalmology as well as for identifying additional indications for which aptamers as a class of therapeutics have distinct advantages.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aptamers, Nucleotide / therapeutic use*
  • Eye Diseases / genetics
  • Eye Diseases / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Ligands
  • Ophthalmology / trends*
  • SELEX Aptamer Technique / trends*


  • Aptamers, Nucleotide
  • Ligands
  • pegaptanib