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Generating aptamers towards human sperm cells using massively parallel sequencing

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5821
Number of pages5834
Published5 Aug 2021

King's Authors


Determining the presence of sperm cells on an item or swab is often a crucial component of sexual offence investigation. However, traditional histological staining techniques used for the morphological identification of spermatozoa lack both specificity and sensitivity, making analysis a complex and time-consuming process. New methods for the detection of sperm cells based on aptamer recognition may be able to overcome these issues. In this work, we present the selection of ssDNA aptamers against human sperm cells using Cell-SELEX and massively parallel sequencing technologies. A total of 14 rounds of selection were performed following a modified Cell-SELEX protocol, which included additional steps for the isolation of spermatozoa from seminal fluid. Massively parallel sequencing using the Illumina Miseq platform was conducted on enriched aptamer pools to elucidate the structure of potential binders. A custom bioinformatics pipeline was also developed using Galaxy for the automated processing of sequencing datasets. This data revealed several promising aptamer candidates, which were shown to selectively bind sperm cells through both microscale thermophoresis and enzyme-linked oligonucleotide assays. These aptamers have the potential to increase the efficiency of sexual offence casework by facilitating sperm detection.

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