Genetically encodable materials for non-invasive biological imaging

Arash Farhadi, Felix Sigmund, Gil Gregor Westmeyer, Mikhail G. Shapiro

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Many questions in basic biology and medicine require the ability to visualize the function of specific cells and molecules inside living organisms. In this context, technologies such as ultrasound, optoacoustics and magnetic resonance provide non-invasive imaging access to deep-tissue regions, as used in many laboratories and clinics to visualize anatomy and physiology. In addition, recent work has enabled these technologies to image the location and function of specific cells and molecules inside the body by coupling the physics of sound waves, nuclear spins and light absorption to unique protein-based materials. These materials, which include air-filled gas vesicles, capsid-like nanocompartments, pigment-producing enzymes and transmembrane transporters, enable new forms of biomolecular and cellular contrast. The ability of these protein-based contrast agents to be genetically encoded and produced by cells creates opportunities for unprecedented in vivo studies of cellular function, while their amenability to genetic engineering enables atomic-level design of their physical, chemical and biological properties.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)585-592
Number of pages8
JournalNature Materials
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2021
Externally publishedYes


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