Photoresponsive molecular tools for emerging applications of light in medicine
Light-based therapeutic and imaging modalities, which emerge in clinical applications, rely on molecular tools, such as photocleavable protecting groups and photoswitches, that respond to photonic stimulus and translate it into a biological effect. However, optimisation of their key parameters (activation wavelength, band separation, fatigue resistance and half-life) is necessary to enable application in the medical field. In this perspective, we describe the applications scenarios that can be envisioned in clinical practice and then we use those scenarios to explain the necessary properties that the photoresponsive tools used to control biological function should possess, highlighted by examples from medical imaging, drug delivery and photopharmacology. We then present how the (photo)chemical parameters are currently being optimized and an outlook is given on pharmacological aspects (toxicity, solubility, and stability) of light-responsive molecules. With these interdisciplinary insights, we hope to outline future directions for the development of photocontrolled tools that will empower clinical applications of light.