Mechanosensing is a ubiquitous process to translate external mechanical stimuli into biological responses during development, homeostasis, and disease. However, non-invasive investigation of cellular mechanosensing in complex and intact live tissue remains challenging. We developed GenEPi, a genetically-encoded fluorescent intensiometric reporter for mechanical stimuli based on Piezo1, an essential mechanosensitive ion channel found in vertebrates. GenEPi has high specificity and spatiotemporal resolution, enabling the precise understanding how physical forces drive biological function during, for instance, tissue growth, wound healing and cancer cell invasion.
Optical imaging probes have played a major role in detecting and monitoring of a variety of diseases. Ideally, contrast agents for biomedical applications should degrade without any long-term toxicological consequences to the patient. We developed biodegradable imaging probes, termed bioHarmonophores, that generate a strong nonlinear signal. These reporters can target single cancer cells with high detection sensitivity in vivo, enabling an innovative precision imaging approach to cancer diagnostics and therapy.