Chemical-Biology-derived in vivo Sensors: Past, Present, and Future


  • Robbie Loewith National Centre for Competence in Research in Chemical Biology; Department of Molecular Biology, University of Geneva;
  • Aurélien Roux National Centre for Competence in Research in Chemical Biology; Department of Biochemistry, University of Geneva
  • Olivier Pertz Institute of Cell Biology, University of Bern



Biophysics, Biosensor, Machine learning, Signaling dynamics, Single cell biology


To understand the complex biochemistry and biophysics of biological systems, one needs to be able to monitor local concentrations of molecules, physical properties of macromolecular assemblies and activation status of signaling pathways, in real time, within single cells, and at high spatio-temporal resolution.  Here we look at the tools that have been / are being / need to be provided by chemical biology to address these challenges. In particular, we highlight the utility of molecular probes that help to better measure mechanical forces and flux through key signalling pathways. Chemical biology can be used to both build biosensors to visualize, but also actuators to perturb biological processes. An emergent theme is the possibility to multiplex measurements of multiple cellular processes. Advances in microscopy automation now allow us to acquire datasets for 1000’s of cells. This produces high dimensional datasets that require computer vision approaches that automate image analysis. The high dimensionality of these datasets are often not immediately accessible to human intuition, and, similarly to ‘omics technologies, require statistical approaches for their exploitation. The field of biosensor imaging is therefore experiencing a multidisciplinary transition that will enable it to realize its full potential as a tool to provide a deeper appreciation of cell physiology.




How to Cite

R. Loewith, A. Roux, O. Pertz, Chimia 2021, 75, 1017, DOI: 10.2533/chimia.2021.1017.