Biophotonics. Fluorescence and Reflectance in Living Organisms

  • María Gabriela Lagorio INQUIMAE
  • Gabriela B. Cordon CONICET
  • Analía Iriel CONICET
  • Juan Manuel Romero CONICET
  • Julián Faivovich CONICET
  • Carlos Taboada Duke University (USA)


The light that emerges from a biological entity is relevant from many aspects. In the first place, it allows the construction of the organism’s image and consequently it is responsible for visual perception and communication. Secondly, it can become an important tool in obtaining both physiological and chemical information from the observed entity, in a non-destructive way. When an organism is illuminated, the non-absorbed energy emerges as transmitted or reflected light. Additionally, fluorescence, phosphorescence or bioluminescence may be emitted. In our research group, we have studied and modelled the light released as reflectance and fluorescence for different biological systems like flowers, fruits, plant leaves, canopies, bird’s plumage and amphibians. In this review, we present the advances we have made in this area. They range from the development of theoretical approaches to the implementation of optical methodologies for practical applications. The analysis of light interaction with biological material, which is the domain of biophotonics, has recently acquired great importance in view of the increasing use of optical techniques to the study of living tissues. However, the interpretation of the photophysical and spectroscopic properties of these systems is usually complicated by several factors: elevated chromophore’s concentration, optical inhomogeneity, multi-scattering of photons and presence of multi-layered structures in most cases. Because of these, the accurate modelling of the interaction with light helps to avoid artifacts and to better interpret the processes that take place. Physical models used in the analysis of chlorophyll fluorescence in leaves and canopies with application in remote sensing, optical methodologies for food control and quantification of fluorescence in vivo for evaluation of its biological relevance are examples of the use of the emission of light and will be presented in this review.

Author Biographies

María Gabriela Lagorio, INQUIMAE

María Gabriela Lagorio was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She obtained her B.S. (Chemical Sciences) in 1982 at UBA. She worked in the private industry from 1983 to 1987. Subsequently, she started her research activities, obtaining her PhD in Chemical Sciences (UBA) in 1991. She is presently Professor at UBA and scientist researcher of CONICET. She is the head of the Research Group in Photochemistry and Photobiology in the Department of Inorganic, Analytical and Physical Chemistry/ INQUIMAE (FCEN, UBA). Her research field is focused on the modeling and analysis of the interaction of light with biological entities.

Gabriela B. Cordon, CONICET

Gabriela B. Cordon is Associate Scientist researcher of the National Research Council of Argentina (CONICET) and Assistant Professor at Faculty of Agronomy of Universidad de Buenos Aires. She is member of the Regional analysis and remote sensing laboratory (LART) and of the Agricultural plant physiology and ecology research institute (IFEVA). Her research focuses on the use of chlorophyll fluorescence and reflectance spectroscopy as non-destructive tools for agricultural and environmental monitoring at the leaf, plant and canopy level.

Analía Iriel, CONICET

Analia Iriel was born in Santa Fe, Argentina in 1975. She received her chemistry degree in 1999 from the University of the Litoral. In 2006 she obtained her PhD at the University of Buenos Aires under the supervision of Enrique San Román. She is currently Associate Professor at the Science and Technology School of San Martin University. She is an Associate Scientist researcher of CONICET. Her research interests include micropollutants in environmental matrixes, phytoremediation technologies to remove arsenic from groundwater and non-destructive methodologies to assess environmental risk associated to the presence of pesticides from agricultural activities.

Juan Manuel Romero, CONICET

Juan Manuel Romero was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He has a degree in Biology (FCEN, UBA). Currently, he is completing his doctoral thesis under the direction of M. G. Lagorio and G. Cordon, in modeling the interaction of light with photosynthetic material, with the aim of using fluorescence as an indicator of physiological state. He is a CONICET fellow and a teacher in the Department of Inorganic, Analytical and Physical Chemistry.

Julián Faivovich, CONICET

Julián Faivovich finished his undergraduate studies in biology in the Facultad de Ciencias Exactas y Naturales, Universidad de Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1999, and his doctoral studies in 2005, in Columbia University and the American Museum of Natural History, New York, U.S.A. After two years as a postdoc student in the Universidade Estadual Paulista, Rio Claro, São Paulo, Brazil, he returned to Argentina in 2008 as a researcher in CONICET, in charge of the herpetology division of the Museo Argentino de Ciencias Naturales “Bernardino Rivadavia.” His research has always been focused in systematics and biology of amphibians.

Carlos Taboada, Duke University (USA)

Carlos Taboada received his PhD in Biology in 2017 from the University of Buenos Aires. He is currently a Human Frontier Science Program Fellow at Duke University, USA. His research focuses on organismal biology and combines various theoretical and experimental approaches in photophysics, biochemistry, spectroscopy and mass spectrometry to understand the basis of animal coloration and visual ecology.