Dr Sarah Shigdar

The SLS lab is focused on developing aptamers for both diagnostic and therapeutic applications. Projects include the development of aptamers to aid in the diagnosis of tumours in pathology labs and the generation of more sensitive diagnostic tests, as well as the development of these aptamers as drug delivery vehicles. A major focus of the SLS lab is to develop these aptamers into effective agents that can cross the blood brain barrier and target brain disorders and diseases, such as Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease and brain tumours. The SLS lab is always interested in pursuing collaborative partnerships to advance knowledge in the use of aptamers as theranostic agents.


Development of a Bifunctional Aptamer Targeting the Transferrin Receptor and Epithelial Cell Adhesion Molecule (EpCAM) for the Treatment of Brain Cancer Metastases



The treatment of brain disorders is greatly hindered by the presence of the blood–brain barrier, which restricts the overwhelming majority of small molecules from entering the brain. A novel approach by which to overcome this barrier is to target receptor mediated transport mechanisms present on the endothelial cell membranes. Therefore, we fused an aptamer that binds to epithelial cell adhesion molecule-expressing cancer cells to an aptamer targeting the transferrin receptor. This generated a proof of concept bifunctional aptamer that can overcome the blood–brain barrier and potentially specifically target brain disorders. The initial fusion of the two sequences enhanced the binding affinity of both aptamers while maintaining specificity. Additionally, mutations were introduced into both binding loops to determine their effect on aptamer specificity. The ability of the aptamer to transcytose the blood–brain barrier was then confirmed in vivo following a 1 nmol injection. This study has shown that through the fusion of two aptamer sequences, a bifunctional aptamer can be generated that has the potential to be developed for the specific treatment of brain disorders.

ACS Chem. Neurosci., 2017, 8 (4), pp 777–784


The SLS lab opened at Deakin University in 2013. The lab is run by Dr Sarah Shigdar, and her lab group are housed in the $15M Molecular Medicine Research Facility at Deakin University Waurn Ponds, which contains a comprehensive suite of equipment to service molecular biology, cell biology, microscopy and histology at PC2 level.