Closed loop aptameric directed evolution, (CLADE) is a technique enabling simultaneous discovery, evolution, and optimization of aptamers. It was previously demonstrated using a fluorescent protein, and here we extend its applicability with the generation of surface-bound aptamers for targets containing no natural fluorescence. Starting from a random population, in four generations CLADE produced a new aptamer to thrombin with high specificity and affinity. The best aptameric sequence was void of the set of four guanine repeats typifying thrombin aptamers and, thus, highlights the benefits of evolution performed in an environment closely mimicking the final diagnostic application. © 2009 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.