Advanced photonic tools may enable researchers and clinicians to visualize, track, control and manipulate biological processes at the single-cell level in space and time. Biological systems are complex and highly organized on both spatial and temporal levels. If we are to study, perturb, engineer or heal biological entities, we must be able to visualize key players in such systems and to track, control and manipulate them precisely and selectively. To achieve this goal, the engineering of non-destructive tools will allow us to interrogate and manipulate the function of proteins, pathways and cells for physicians, enabling the design of 'smart materials' that can direct and respond to biological processes on-demand. Among the potentially exploitable non-destructive tools, light-based actuation is particularly desirable, as it enables high spatial and temporal resolution, dosage control, minimal disturbance to biological systems and deep tissue penetration. Here, we overview existing approaches toward the engineering of light-activated tools for the interrogation and manipulation of single-cell processes, and list the types of studies and types of functions that can be controlled by light. Timely applications, such as studies of inflammation and of crossing brain barrier systems - via super-resolution imaging and optomechanical manipulation - are two representative examples of emerging applications so far never addressed.
|State||Published - 27 Nov 2021|