Cell-based biosensors (CBBs) have emerged as powerful functional tools for the rapid detection of hazards and threats associated with food, agriculture, environment and biosecurity. CBBs detect the functional aspects of a host-hazard interaction and render an accurate estimation of the risks. Assessing hazard-induced physiological responses, such as receptor-ligand interactions, signal transduction, gene expression, membrane damage, apoptosis and oncosis of living sensing organisms can provide insight into the basis of toxicity for a particular hazard. This review highlights the progress made in developing mammalian CBBs for pathogens and toxins, with special emphasis on multidisciplinary approaches that combine molecular biology and microbiology with methods used in physics and engineering, which led to the development of a three-dimensional cell-culture system and high-throughput screening employing optical and electrical systems.
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