Specific light-up bioprobes based on AIEgen conjugates
Driven by the high demand for sensitive and specific tools for optical sensing and imaging, bioprobes with various working mechanisms and advanced functionalities are flourishing at an incredible speed. Conventional fluorescent probes suffer from the notorious effect of aggregation-caused quenching that imposes limitation on their labelling efficiency or concentration to achieve desired sensitivity. The recently emerged fluorogens with an aggregation-induced emission (AIE) feature offer a timely remedy to tackle the challenge. Utilizing the unique properties of AIE fluorogens (AIEgens), specific light-up probes have been constructed through functionalization with recognition elements, showing advantages such as low background interference, a high signal to noise ratio and superior photostability with activatable therapeutic effects. In this tutorial review, we summarize the recent progress in the development of specific AIEgen-based light-up bioprobes. Through illustration of their operation mechanisms and application examples, we hope to provide guidelines for the design of more advanced AIE sensing and imaging platforms with high selectivity, great sensitivity and wide adaptability to a broad range of biomedical applications.