Aptamer-Engineered Natural Killer Cells for Cell-Specific Adaptive Immunotherapy

Shuanghui Yang, Jianguo Wen, Huan Li, Ling Xu, Yanting Liu, Nianxi Zhao, Zihua Zeng, Jianjun Qi, Wenqi Jiang, Wei Han, Youli Zu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


Natural killer (NK) cells are a key component of the innate immune system as they can attack cancer cells without prior sensitization. However, due to lack of cell-specific receptors, NK cells are not innately able to perform targeted cancer immunotherapy. Aptamers are short single-stranded oligonucleotides that specifically recognize their targets with high affinity in a similar manner to antibodies. To render NK cells with target-specificity, synthetic CD30-specific aptamers are anchored on cell surfaces to produce aptamer-engineered NK cells (ApEn-NK) without genetic alteration or cell damage. Under surface-anchored aptamer guidance, ApEn-NK specifically bind to CD30-expressing lymphoma cells but do not react to off-target cells. The resulting specific cell binding of ApEn-NK triggers higher apoptosis/death rates of lymphoma cells compared to parental NK cells. Additionally, experiments with primary human NK cells demonstrate the potential of ApEn-NK to specifically target and kill lymphoma cells, thus presenting a potential new approach for targeted immunotherapy by NK cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1900903
Issue number22
StatePublished - May 29 2019


  • adaptive immunotherapy
  • aptamer-engineering
  • lymphoma
  • natural killer (NK) cells
  • oligonucleotide aptamers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biomaterials
  • Materials Science(all)
  • Engineering (miscellaneous)


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