Improved tools for providing specific intraoperative diagnoses could improve patient care. In neurosurgery, intraoperatively differentiating non-operative lesions such as CNS B-cell lymphoma from operative lesions can be challenging, often necessitating immunohistochemical (IHC) procedures which require up to 24-48 hours. Here, we evaluate the feasibility of generating rapid ex vivo specific labeling using a novel lymphoma-specific fluorescent switchable aptamer. Our B-cell lymphoma-specific switchable aptamer produced only low-level fluorescence in its unbound conformation and generated an 8-fold increase in fluorescence once bound to its target on CD20-positive lymphoma cells. The aptamer demonstrated strong binding to B-cell lymphoma cells within 15 minutes of incubation as observed by flow cytometry. We applied the switchable aptamer to ex vivo xenograft tissue harboring B-cell lymphoma and astrocytoma, and within one hour specific visual identification of lymphoma was routinely possible. In this proof-of-concept study in human cell culture and orthotopic xenografts, we conclude that a fluorescent switchable aptamer can provide rapid and specific labeling of B-cell lymphoma, and that developing aptamer-based labeling approaches could simplify tissue staining and drastically reduce time to histopathological diagnoses compared with IHC-based methods. We propose that switchable aptamers could enhance expeditious, accurate intraoperative decision-making.
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