Biomolecular Ultrasound and Sonogenetics

Annu Rev Chem Biomol Eng. 2018 Jun 7:9:229-252. doi: 10.1146/annurev-chembioeng-060817-084034. Epub 2018 Mar 26.


Visualizing and modulating molecular and cellular processes occurring deep within living organisms is fundamental to our study of basic biology and disease. Currently, the most sophisticated tools available to dynamically monitor and control cellular events rely on light-responsive proteins, which are difficult to use outside of optically transparent model systems, cultured cells, or surgically accessed regions owing to strong scattering of light by biological tissue. In contrast, ultrasound is a widely used medical imaging and therapeutic modality that enables the observation and perturbation of internal anatomy and physiology but has historically had limited ability to monitor and control specific cellular processes. Recent advances are beginning to address this limitation through the development of biomolecular tools that allow ultrasound to connect directly to cellular functions such as gene expression. Driven by the discovery and engineering of new contrast agents, reporter genes, and bioswitches, the nascent field of biomolecular ultrasound carries a wave of exciting opportunities.

Keywords: biomolecular; gas vesicles; imaging; reporter gene; sonogenetics; ultrasound.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Transport
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Contrast Media / chemistry
  • Genetic Vectors / genetics
  • Genetic Vectors / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Photoacoustic Techniques
  • Proteins / genetics
  • Proteins / metabolism
  • Ultrasonics / methods*


  • Contrast Media
  • Proteins
  • gas vesicle protein