The most common types of communication in the brain are chemically based. In fact, single FP-based Ca2+ probes are the most widely used genetically encoded biosensors in neuroscience. Based on a similar strategy, glutamate sensors and voltage sensors have also been developed. Despite that advancements of the FP technology have result in a color palette of FPs and various FP-based biosensors, the technology is far from reaching its full potential, in particular, for applications in neurobiology. Brain signaling involves hundreds of different chemicals, whereas genetically encoded biosensors are only available for detecting a few chemicals. Our lab aims to address the technical need for genetically encoded fluorescent biosensors to monitor specific chemical signaling in living cells and organisms. Development of these new research tools is expected to enable the generation of a dynamic picture of neurotransmission and neuromodulation, thereby leading to a better understanding of chemical signaling and development of novel therapeutics to brain disorders.
In addition to fluorescent protein based biosensors, we are also exploring biosensors based on other imaging modalities, such as bioluminescence and MRI (magnetic resonance imaging).