Project TitleUltrasensitive Fluorescent Biosensors for Zinc
Track Code2012-160
Short Description

Novel chemical sensor for zinc that can be used to monitor this ion in cells and the extracellular environment

#sensor #biosensor #researchtool #reagent


Researchers from Northwestern University have developed a new class of fluorescent zinc sensors, called ZincBYs, which can detect nanomolar concentrations of zinc ions within cells. Cells tightly control levels of zinc as it is involved in many essential processes, like fertilization, glucose homeostasis and oncogenesis. For these reasons, biologists in various fields study zinc modulation in cells and tissues using fluorescent molecules for detection. However, the issue with current reagents is that they must be used at micromolar concentrations to achieve detection as they depend on a zinc chelation mechanism. Such high concentrations of zinc-binding molecules can lead to experimental error, by inducing alterations to normal cell physiology. Unlike other zinc sensing molecules, ZincBYs can be used for extracellular zinc tracking and are compatible with flow cytometry equipment. ZincBYs are not only more sensitive, but can also be chemically modified to customize their chemical properties to fit with specific experimental conditions. These favorable characteristics could make the ZincBY sensors a preferred reagent among cell biologists, as well as allow for their further development into diagnostics.

TagsSENSOR: biosensor, research tool: reagent
Posted DateJun 5, 2015 11:54 AM


Emily Que

Theresa Woodruff*

Thomas O’Halloran*


  • Zinc sensing and tracking in cells and the extracellular environment
  • Research tool
  • Diagnostic device development


  • High sensitivity
  • Reduced chance of experimental error
  • Compatible with flow cytometry


IP Status

US patent application has been filed.

Contact Information

Michael Moore, PhD

Invention Manager

(p) 847.491.4645