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Weihong Tan, PhD

Where You Are:
Weihong Tan, PhD

Office  (352) 846-2410

Education And Training
  • Postdoctoral Fellow, US Department of Energy, 1995
  • PhD, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, 1993 - Chemistry
  • MSc, Chinese Academy of Science, 1985 - Physical Chemistry


A complete understanding of the molecular basis of cancers depends on novel molecular probes to recognize targets of interest. Currently, molecular medicine lacks sufficient molecular probes for the effective study of human diseases like cancer. A new class of designer nucleic acids (termed aptamers) holds great promise in meeting this challenge. Aptamers, which can be selected for single proteins and even small molecules, can be created by a strategy known as SELEX. Instead of using single type of molecules as a target for aptamer selection, we have developed a process, termed cell-SELEX, for aptamer selection using intact living cancer cells. By cell-SELEX, aptamers can be selected for the specific recognition of individual cell types without prior knowledge of the biomarkers for the cell. The selection process is simple, fast, and reproducible. The selected aptamers can bind to target cells with dissociation constants in the nanomolar to picomolar range.

So far, we have selected aptamers for nine different cancers (three different types of leukemia (T-cell, B-cell and AML), two types of lung cancers (small cell lung cancer and non-small cell lung cancer), liver cancer, colon cancer, ovarian cancer and breast cancer), infectious diseases and stem cells. All these aptamers worked well for the specific recognition of cancer cells. We used these aptamers in combination with molecular biology, bioanalysis, biophysics, biomedical engineering and nanotechnology in making a variety of advanced molecular tools for molecular medicine. These new tools based on aptamers could be used for early diagnosis and targeted therapy of cancer. Using the aptamers, we are also able to discover new biomarkers for specific cancers.

  • Huang F, You M, Chen T, Zhu G, Liang H, Tan W. Self-assembled hybrid nanoparticles for targeted co-delivery of two drugs into cancer cells. Chem Commun (Camb). 2014 Feb;50(23):3103-3105. Pubmedid: 24516863.
  • Kobeissy FH, Gulbakan B, Alawieh A, Karam P, Zhang Z, Guingab-Cagmat JD, Mondello S, Tan W, Anagli J, Wang K. Post-genomics nanotechnology is gaining momentum: nanoproteomics and applications in life sciences. OMICS. 2014 Feb;18(2):111-131. Pubmedid: 24410486.
  • Altman MO, Chang YM, Xiong X, Tan W. Modifying cellular properties using artificial aptamer-lipid receptors. Sci Rep. 2013 Nov;3:3343. Pubmedid: 24275961.
  • Fan ZH, Tan W. DNA nanospheres with microfluidics: a promising platform for cancer diagnosis?. Nanomedicine (Lond). 2013 Nov;8(11):1731-1733. Pubmedid: 24156482.
  • Martin JA, Parekh P, Kim Y, Morey TE, Sefah K, Gravenstein N, Dennis DM, Tan W. Selection of an aptamer antidote to the anticoagulant drug bivalirudin. PLoS One. 2013 Sep;8(3):e57341. Pubmedid: 23483901. Pmcid: PMC3590194.
  • Wu C, Chen T, Han D, You M, Peng L, Cansiz S, Zhu G, Li C, Xiong X, Jimenez E, Yang CJ, Tan W. Engineering of switchable aptamer micelle flares for molecular imaging in living cells. ACS Nano. 2013 Jul;7(7):5724-5731. Pubmedid: 23746078. Pmcid: PMC3789376.
  • Xiong X, Wu C, Zhou C, Zhu G, Chen Z, Tan W. Responsive DNA-Based Hydrogels and Their Applications. Macromol Rapid Commun. 2013 Jul;34(16):1271-1283. Pubmedid: 23857726.
  • Zhu G, Zhang S, Song E, Zheng J, Hu R, Fang X, Tan W. Building Fluorescent DNA Nanodevices on Target Living Cell Surfaces. Angew Chem Int Ed Engl. 2013 May;52(21):5490-5496. Pubmedid: 23606645.
  • Mullick AB, Chang YM, Ghiviriga I, Abboud KA, Tan W, Veige AS. Human cancerous and healthy cell cytotoxicity studies of a chiral μ-dicarbene-digold(i) metallamacrocycle. Dalton Trans. 2013 May;42(20):7440-7446. Pubmedid: 23459659.
  • Peng L, Wu C, You M, Han D, Chen Y, Fu T, Ye M, Tan W. Engineering and Applications of DNA-Grafting Polymer Materials. Chem Sci. 2013 May;4(5):1928-1938. Pubmedid: 23682309. Pmcid: PMC3652475.
  • Wang J, You M, Zhu G, Shukoor MI, Chen Z, Zhao Z, Altman MB, Yuan Q, Zhu Z, Chen Y, Huang CZ, Tan W. Photosensitizer-Gold Nanorod Composite for Targeted Multimodal Therapy. Small. 2013 May. Pubmedid: 23661612.
  • Jiménez E, Sefah K, López-Colón D, Van Simaeys D, Chen HW, Tockman MS, Tan W. Generation of lung adenocarcinoma DNA aptamers for cancer studies. PLoS One. 2013 Apr;7(10):e46222. Pubmedid: 23082117. Pmcid: PMC3474832.
  • Shukoor MI, Altman MO, Han D, Bayrac AT, Ocsoy I, Zhu Z, Tan W. Aptamer-Nanoparticle Assembly for Logic-Based Detection. ACS Appl Mater Interfaces. 2012 Jun. Pubmedid: 22650355.
  • Van Simaeys D, López-Colón D, Sefah K, Sutphen R, Jimenez E, Tan W. Study of the molecular recognition of aptamers selected through ovarian cancer cell-SELEX. PLoS One. 2011 Apr;5(11):e13770. Pubmedid: 21072169. Pmcid: PMC2967474.
  • Donovan MJ, Meng L, Chen T, Zhang Y, Sefah K, Tan W. Aptamer-drug conjugation for targeted tumor cell therapy. Methods Mol Biol. 2011;764:141-152. Pubmedid: 21748638.
  • Liu B, Tan W, Barsoum A, Gu X, Chen K, Huang W, Ramsay A, Kolls JK, Schwarzenberger P. IL-17 is a potent synergistic factor with GM-CSF in mice in stimulating myelopoiesis, dendritic cell expansion, proliferation, and functional enhancement. Exp Hematol. 2010 Oct;38(10):877-884.e1. Pubmedid: 20600582.
  • Gulbakan B, Park D, Kang M, Kececi K, Martin CR, Powell DH, Tan W. Laser desorption ionization mass spectrometry on silicon nanowell arrays. Anal Chem. 2010 Sep;82(18):7566-7575. Pubmedid: 20731384. Pmcid: PMC2939284.
  • Wang Y, Li J, Wang H, Jin J, Liu J, Wang K, Tan W, Yang R. Silver ions-mediated conformational switch: facile design of structure-controllable nucleic acid probes. Anal Chem. 2010 Aug;82(15):6607-6612. Pubmedid: 20597497.
  • Sefah K, Shangguan D, Xiong X, O'Donoghue MB, Tan W. Development of DNA aptamers using Cell-SELEX. Nat Protoc. 2010 Jun;5(6):1169-1185. Pubmedid: 20539292.
  • Zhang Y, Chen Y, Han D, Ocsoy I, Tan W. Aptamers selected by cell-SELEX for application in cancer studies. Bioanalysis. 2010 May;2(5):907-918. Pubmedid: 20657791. Pmcid: PMC2906803.
  • Tang Z, Zhu Z, Mallikaratchy P, Yang R, Sefah K, Tan W. Aptamer-target binding triggered molecular mediation of singlet oxygen generation. Chem Asian J. 2010 Apr;5(4):783-786. Pubmedid: 20340154.
  • Liu H, Zhu Z, Kang H, Wu Y, Sefan K, Tan W. DNA-based micelles: synthesis, micellar properties and size-dependent cell permeability. Chemistry. 2010 Mar;16(12):3791-3797. Pubmedid: 20162643. Pmcid: PMC3544201.
  • Zhu Z, Wu C, Liu H, Zou Y, Zhang X, Kang H, Yang CJ, Tan W. An aptamer cross-linked hydrogel as a colorimetric platform for visual detection. Angew Chem Int Ed Engl. 2010 Feb;49(6):1052-1056. Pubmedid: 20084650.
  • Kang H, O'Donoghue MB, Liu H, Tan W. A liposome-based nanostructure for aptamer directed delivery. Chem Commun (Camb). 2010 Jan;46(2):249-251. Pubmedid: 20024341.
  • Wu Y, Sefah K, Liu H, Wang R, Tan W. DNA aptamer-micelle as an efficient detection/delivery vehicle toward cancer cells. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2010 Jan;107(1):5-10. Pubmedid: 20080797. Pmcid: PMC2806697.
  • Estévez MC, Huang YF, Kang H, O'Donoghue MB, Bamrungsap S, Yan J, Chen X, Tan W. Nanoparticle-aptamer conjugates for cancer cell targeting and detection. Methods Mol Biol. 2010;624:235-248. Pubmedid: 20217600.
  • Meng L, Sefah K, Colon DL, Chen H, O'Donoghue M, Xiong X, Tan W. Using live cells to generate aptamers for cancer study. Methods Mol Biol. 2010;629:355-367. Pubmedid: 20387161.
  • Tang Z, Parekh P, Turner P, Moyer RW, Tan W. Generating aptamers for recognition of virus-infected cells. Clin Chem. 2009 Apr;55(4):813-822. Pubmedid: 19246617. Pmcid: PMC3869972.
  • Kim Y, Liu C, Tan W. Aptamers generated by Cell SELEX for biomarker discovery. Biomark Med. 2009 Apr;3(2):193-202. Pubmedid: 20477510.
  • Phillips JA, Xu Y, Xia Z, Fan ZH, Tan W. Enrichment of cancer cells using aptamers immobilized on a microfluidic channel. Anal Chem. 2009 Feb;81(3):1033-1039. Pubmedid: 19115856. Pmcid: PMC2668195.
  • Huang YF, Sefah K, Bamrungsap S, Chang HT, Tan W. Selective photothermal therapy for mixed cancer cells using aptamer-conjugated nanorods. Langmuir. 2008 Oct;24(20):11860-11865. Pubmedid: 18817428.
  • Shangguan D, Cao Z, Meng L, Mallikaratchy P, Sefah K, Wang H, Li Y, Tan W. Cell-specific aptamer probes for membrane protein elucidation in cancer cells. J Proteome Res. 2008 Sep;7(5):2133-2139. Pubmedid: 18363322. Pmcid: PMC2749249.
  • Tang Z, Mallikaratchy P, Yang R, Kim Y, Zhu Z, Wang H, Tan W. Aptamer switch probe based on intramolecular displacement. J Am Chem Soc. 2008 Aug;130(34):11268-11269. Pubmedid: 18680291.
  • Zhu Z, Tang Z, Phillips J, Yang R, Wang H, Tan W. Regulation of singlet oxygen generation using single-walled carbon nanotubes. J Am Chem Soc. 2008 Aug;130(33):10856-10857. Pubmedid: 18661988.
  • Yang R, Jin J, Chen Y, Shao N, Kang H, Xiao Z, Tang Z, Wu Y, Zhu Z, Tan W. Carbon nanotube-quenched fluorescent oligonucleotides: probes that fluoresce upon hybridization. J Am Chem Soc. 2008 Jul;130(26):8351-8358. Pubmedid: 18528999.
  • Chen HW, Medley CD, Sefah K, Shangguan D, Tang Z, Meng L, Smith JE, Tan W. Molecular recognition of small-cell lung cancer cells using aptamers. ChemMedChem. 2008 Jun;3(6):991-1001. Pubmedid: 18338423. Pmcid: PMC3544301.
  • Martinez K, Medley CD, Yang CJ, Tan W. Investigation of the hybrid molecular probe for intracellular studies. Anal Bioanal Chem. 2008 Jun;391(3):983-991. Pubmedid: 18421445. Pmcid: PMC2748777.
  • Buyukserin F, Medley CD, Mota MO, Kececi K, Rogers RR, Tan W, Martin CR. Antibody-functionalized nano test tubes target breast cancer cells. Nanomedicine (Lond). 2008 Jun;3(3):283-292. Pubmedid: 18510424.
  • Kim Y, Cao Z, Tan W. Molecular assembly for high-performance bivalent nucleic acid inhibitor. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008 Apr;105(15):5664-5669. Pubmedid: 18398007. Pmcid: PMC2311377.
  • Wu Y, Yang C, Moroz L, Tan W. Nucleic acid beacons for long-term real-time intracellular monitoring. Anal Chem. 2008 Apr;80(8):3025-3028. Pubmedid: 18321137. Pmcid: PMC3830794.
  • Wang L, Est??vez M, O'Donoghue M, Tan W. Fluorophore-free luminescent organosilica nanoparticles. Langmuir. 2008 Mar;24(5):1635-1639. Pubmedid: 18217782.
  • Mallikaratchy P, Tang Z, Tan W. Cell specific aptamer-photosensitizer conjugates as a molecular tool in photodynamic therapy. ChemMedChem. 2008 Mar;3(3):425-428. Pubmedid: 18058891. Pmcid: PMC2922679.
  • Chen Y, Yang C, Wu Y, Conlon P, Kim Y, Lin H, Tan W. Light-switching excimer beacon assays for ribonuclease H kinetic study. Chembiochem. 2008 Feb;9(3):355-359. Pubmedid: 18181133.
  • Huang Y, Chang H, Tan W. Cancer cell targeting using multiple aptamers conjugated on nanorods. Anal Chem. 2008 Feb;80(3):567-572. Pubmedid: 18166023.
  • Medley C, Smith J, Tang Z, Wu Y, Bamrungsap S, Tan W. Gold nanoparticle-based colorimetric assay for the direct detection of cancerous cells. Anal Chem. 2008 Feb;80(4):1067-1072. Pubmedid: 18198894.
  • Conlon P, Yang CJ, Wu Y, Chen Y, Martinez K, Kim Y, Stevens N, Marti AA, Jockusch S, Turro NJ, Tan W. Pyrene excimer signaling molecular beacons for probing nucleic acids. J Am Chem Soc. 2008 Jan;130(1):336-342. Pubmedid: 18078339. Pmcid: PMC2531189.
  • Xiao Z, Shangguan D, Cao Z, Fang X, Tan W. Cell-specific internalization study of an aptamer from whole cell selection. Chemistry. 2008;14(6):1769-1775. Pubmedid: 18092308.
  • Mallikaratchy P, Tang Z, Kwame S, Meng L, Shangguan D, Tan W. Aptamer directly evolved from live cells recognizes membrane bound immunoglobin heavy mu chain in Burkitt's lymphoma cells. Mol Cell Proteomics. 2007 Dec;6(12):2230-2238. Pubmedid: 17875608.
  • Xing H, Chen M, Ling J, Tan W, Gu JG. TRPM8 mechanism of cold allodynia after chronic nerve injury. J Neurosci. 2007 Dec;27(50):13680-13690. Pubmedid: 18077679.
  • Tang Z, Shangguan D, Wang K, Shi H, Sefah K, Mallikratchy P, Chen HW, Li Y, Tan W. Selection of aptamers for molecular recognition and characterization of cancer cells. Anal Chem. 2007 Jul;79(13):4900-4907. Pubmedid: 17530817.
  • Shangguan D, Cao Z, Li Y, Tan W. Aptamers evolved from cultured cancer cells reveal molecular differences of cancer cells in patient samples. Clin Chem. 2007 Jun;53(6):1153-1155. Pubmedid: 17463173.
  • Yang CJ, Wang L, Wu Y, Kim Y, Medley CD, Lin H, Tan W. Synthesis and investigation of deoxyribonucleic acid/locked nucleic acid chimeric molecular beacons. Nucleic Acids Res. 2007;35(12):4030-4041. Pubmedid: 17557813. Pmcid: PMC1919502.
  • Kim Y, Yang CJ, Tan W. Superior structure stability and selectivity of hairpin nucleic acid probes with an L-DNA stem. Nucleic Acids Res. 2007;35(21):7279-7287. Pubmedid: 17959649. Pmcid: PMC2175343.
  • Wang L, O'Donoghue MB, Tan W. Nanoparticles for multiplex diagnostics and imaging. Nanomedicine (Lond). 2006 Dec;1(4):413-426. Pubmedid: 17716144.
  • Shangguan D, Li Y, Tang Z, Cao ZC, Chen HW, Mallikaratchy P, Sefah K, Yang CJ, Tan W. Aptamers evolved from live cells as effective molecular probes for cancer study. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2006 Sep;103(32):11838-11843. Pubmedid: 16873550. Pmcid: PMC1567664.
  • Yang C, Martinez K, Lin H, Tan W. Hybrid molecular probe for nucleic acid analysis in biological samples. J Am Chem Soc. 2006 Aug;128(31):9986-9987. Pubmedid: 16881607.
  • Yang CJ, Jockusch S, Vicens M, Turro NJ, Tan W. Light-switching excimer probes for rapid protein monitoring in complex biological fluids. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2006 May;102(48):17278-17283. Pubmedid: 16301535. Pmcid: PMC1297691.
  • Herr J, Smith J, Medley C, Shangguan D, Tan W. Aptamer-conjugated nanoparticles for selective collection and detection of cancer cells. Anal Chem. 2006 May;78(9):2918-2924. Pubmedid: 16642976.
  • Wang L, Tan W. Multicolor FRET silica nanoparticles by single wavelength excitation. Nano Lett. 2006 Jan;6(1):84-88. Pubmedid: 16402792. Pmcid: PMC2527125.
  • Wang L, Yang C, Medley C, Benner S, Tan W. Locked nucleic acid molecular beacons. J Am Chem Soc. 2005 Nov;127(45):15664-15665. Pubmedid: 16277483.
  • Yang CJ, Lin H, Tan W. Molecular assembly of superquenchers in signaling molecular interactions. J Am Chem Soc. 2005 Sep;127(37):12772-12773. Pubmedid: 16159250. Pmcid: PMC2536687.
  • Huang CC, Huang YF, Cao Z, Tan W, Chang HT. Aptamer-modified gold nanoparticles for colorimetric determination of platelet-derived growth factors and their receptors. Anal Chem. 2005 Sep;77(17):5735-5741. Pubmedid: 16131089.
  • Medley C, Drake T, Tomasini J, Rogers R, Tan W. Simultaneous monitoring of the expression of multiple genes inside of single breast carcinoma cells. Anal Chem. 2005 Aug;77(15):4713-4718. Pubmedid: 16053280.
  • Drake TJ, Jezzini S, Lovell P, Moroz LL, Tan W. Single cell glutamate analysis in Aplysia sensory neurons. J Neurosci Meth. 2005 May;144(1):73-77. Pubmedid: 15848241.
  • Yang C, Pinto M, Schanze K, Tan W. Direct synthesis of an oligonucleotide-poly(phenylene ethynylene) conjugate with a precise one-to-one molecular ratio. Angew Chem Int Ed Engl. 2005 Apr;44(17):2572-2576. Pubmedid: 15779096.
  • Wang L, Yang C, Tan W. Dual-luminophore-doped silica nanoparticles for multiplexed signaling. Nano Lett. 2005 Jan;5(1):37-43. Pubmedid: 15792409.
  • Zhao X, Hilliard LR, Mechery SJ, Wang Y, Bagwe RP, Jin S, Tan W. A rapid bioassay for single bacterial cell quantitation using bioconjugated nanoparticles. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2004 Oct;101(42):15027-15032. Pubmedid: 15477593. Pmcid: PMC524056.
  • Kohli P, Harrell C, Cao Z, Gasparac R, Tan W, Martin C. DNA-functionalized nanotube membranes with single-base mismatch selectivity. Science. 2004 Aug;305(5686):984-986. Pubmedid: 15310896.
  • Qhobosheane M, Zhang P, Tan W. Assembly of silica nanoparticles for two-dimensional nanomaterials. J Nanosci Nanotechnol. 2004 Jul;4(6):635-640. Pubmedid: 15518399.
  • Qhobosheane M, Liu X, Gu Y, Wu D, Tan W. Two-dimensional imaging biosensor for the monitoring of lactate released from brain slices. Appl Spectroscopy. 2003 Jun;57(6):689-696. Pubmedid: 14658703.
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