Author Archive

Top 10 Reviewers for Integrative Biology

In celebration of Peer Review Week, with the theme of Recognition for Review – we would like to highlight the top 10 reviewers for Integrative Biology in 2016, as selected by the editor for their significant contribution to the journal.

Name Institution
Dr Shelly Peyton University of Massachusetts Amherst
Dr Chris Moraes McGill University
Dr Jennie Leach University of Maryland, Baltimore County
Dr Joe Tien Boston University
Professor Dino Di Carlo University of California, Los Angeles
Professor Yoon-Kyoung Cho Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology
Dr Alexander Revzin University of California, Davis
Dr Jaebum Choo Hanyang University
Jamie A. Davies The University of Edinburgh
Dr Manuel Salmeron-Sanchez University of Glasgow

We would like to say a massive thank you to these reviewers as well as the Integrative Biology board and all of our community for their continued support of the journal, as authors, reviewers and readers.

Review to win!
As a little added bonus to celebrate Peer Review Week, for the next four weeks our reviewers will be in with a chance of winning a fantastic prize! Simply submit a review for any of our journals between 19 September and 16 October 2016 and you will be automatically eligible for a chance to win one of our fantastic prizes.

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Implications in diabetes explored with a 3D-printed fluidic device

Type 1 Diabetes has confused doctors for centuries. Characterised by the auto-immune destruction of pancreatic beta cells, sudden and debilitating symptoms can arise without insulin treatment. Insulin is only one amongst three known hormones produced by the beta cell, leading researchers at Michigan State University (MSU) to examine one of these mysterious molecules, called C-peptide.

The life expectancy of a person with type-1 diabetes has increased significantly compared to pre-20th century, but unfortunately chronic complications still may develop, such as heart disease, nerve damage and retinopathy. However, there is evidence that short-term replacement of C-peptide could improve the progression of the disease, by enhancing the ability of red blood cells to affect blood flow. Using a 3D-printed fluidic device, Researchers at MSU tested the hypothesis that C-peptide combined with a charged form of zinc (Zn2+) would cause blood vessel dilation, by increasing the amounts of ATP, an energy-carrier molecule shown to stimulate the vessel dilator nitric oxide (NO).

The 3D-printed fluidic device provides an experimental model for investigating cellular communication in the pancreas. Red blood cells flowed in the albumin-containing buffer under INS-1 cells and ATP release was measured.

This platform allowed the researchers to examine the tissue-tissue communication between rat INS-1 cells (which can serve as a beta-cell mimic) and a blood vessel-like endothelium, a currently impossible task to achieve in vivo.

Initially it was thought that Zn2+ facilitated delivery of C-peptide to the red blood cells, but it was soon found the delivery was actually enhanced by Albumin, a peptide carrier in the bloodstream.

However, red blood cells incubated with C-peptide alone did not show a significant ATP increase – they found it is in fact a joint effort, where both zinc and C-peptide are delivered by albumin to the endothelium. This suggests that the next steps are to test zinc, C-peptide and albumin combinational treatment alongside insulin, and to identify the C-peptide receptor itself.

The full article is free to access until 3 July 2015 and can be found on the link below:

C-peptide and zinc delivery to erythrocytes requires the presence of albumin: implications in diabetes explored with a 3D-printed fluidic device

Yueli Liu, Chengpeng Chen, Suzanne Summers, Wathsala Medawala and Dana M. Spence

Integr. Biol., 2015,7, 534-543
DOI: 10.1039/C4IB00243A
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March’s HOT Article

Article of the month for March, recommended by our referees, is free* to access for a limited time only!

Analysis of sphingosine kinase activity in single natural killer cells from peripheral blood

Alexandra J. Dickinson, Megan Meyer, Erica A. Pawlak, Shawn Gomez, Ilona Jaspers and Nancy L. Allbritton

Integr. Biol., 2015, 7, 392-401
DOI: 10.1039/C5IB00007F, Paper

Take a look at our Integrative Biology 2014 HOT Articles Collection!

*Access is free until 31.05.2015 through a publishing personal account. It’s quick, easy and free to register!

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Capillary electrophoresis to analyse enzymatic pathways in natural killer cells

Natural killer (NK) cells are a type of lymphocyte that are vitally important in the body’s immune response. These cells show high levels of heterogeneity, with an estimated 6000 to 30000 distinct subsets in the circulating blood of just one person. Because of this, technologies are needed that are capable of measuring single cells.

Allbritton and co-workers, at the University of North Carolina, have reported a method for doing just this using an automated single-cell capillary electrophoresis (CE) system. This system works by capturing individual NK cells in cell traps (consisting of 15µm diameter microwells) and positioning a capillary above one of the cell traps. The cell is lysed using a laser pulse and the cellular contents are injected into the capillary electrokinetically. The capillary is programmed to transfer the cellular contents to the electrophoretic buffer, where separation occurs. The capillary then moves back to the next cell trap and repeats the process.

The work in this paper focuses on the spingosine-1-phosphate (S1P) pathway (shown in the diagram below), which is important in the regulation of lymphocyte migration and differentiation, and cytokine production. Fluorescently labelled sphingosine was loaded into the NK cells of healthy human subjects and, following incubation, the cells were loaded onto the microwells and analysed using the single-cell CE system. The amount of each metabolite present was then identified from the electropherogram. The authors identified three major peaks, corresponding to fluorescently labelled sphingosine, S1P and hexadecanoic acid.  From the relative amounts of each metabolite, the activity of various enzymes in the S1P pathway were assessed.

The activity within the S1P pathway was found to be highly heterogeneous in NK cells obtained from one individual, as well as those from different subjects. In the majority of cells, phosphorylation of sphingosine was upregulated relative to the breakdown of S1P. No peaks were seen that corresponded to the ceramide metabolite, suggesting that in healthy humans, sphingosine is metabolised to S1P more rapidly.

By increasing the throughput of the automated system and preparing additional fluorescent reporters, this automated CE system has the potential to provide a more comprehensive picture of an individual cell’s signalling pathways.



To download the full article for free* click the link below:
Analysis of sphingosine kinase activity in single natural killer cells from peripheral blood
Alexandra J. DickinsonMegan MeyerErica A. PawlakShawn GomezIlona Jaspers and Nancy L. Allbritton
DOI: 10.1039/C5IB00007F


*Access is free until 31.05.2014 through a registered publishing personal account

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How are neurons like social networks?

News travels fast on Facebook. You post a YouTube video, and by the next day, your cousin’s roommate’s friend’s ex-boyfriend in Australia is watching it.

Facebook is a prime example of what is known as a small-world network. Each node (in this case, a person) is only connected to a few others within the network (their “friends”), but because the way that interconnected nodes cluster together, no node is more than a few steps away from any other. It’s a virtual demonstration of the classic six degrees of separation paradigm.

Now, scientists are investigating whether neural networks use similar strategies to efficiently transmit complex information. For example, in a recent study published in the Royal Society of Chemistry journal Integrative Biology, an international team of researchers examined how the nanostructure of silicon surfaces affected the way neural networks formed on it.

The team grew neuroblastoma brain cancer cells on two different silicon substrates: one smooth, the other etched with nanoscale pores. (Neuroblastoma cells display many of the same properties as ordinary neurons but are easier to grow in culture.)  The cells grew much more quickly on the etched silicon than on the smooth surface. Furthermore, the porous, etched silicon induced the cells to form a more clustered network with a small-world topology. It appeared that the nanoscale-level constraints induced the cells to form more efficient network structures.

Porous silicon has shown promise in biomedical applications. These results suggest that biomedical engineers could influence the way neural networks form on silicon by modifying its surface. And while it has not been experimentally demonstrated, the researchers suggest that similar nanoscale cues within the brain could influence the formation of neural networks in the human brain and guide them towards more efficient configurations.

The full paper by Marinaro et al is free* to access until 9th March 2015. Download now by clicking the link below:

Networks of neuroblastoma cells on porous silicon substrates reveal a small world topology

* Access is free through a registered RSC account – click here to register

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November’s HOT Article

Article of the month for November, recommended by our referees, is free* to access for a limited time only!


Silk fibroin-keratin based 3D scaffolds as a dermal substitute for skin tissue engineering
Nandana Bhardwaj, Wan Ting Sow, Dipali Devi, Kee Woei Ng, Biman B. Mandal and Nam-Joon Cho
Integr. Biol., 2015,7, 53-63
DOI: 10.1039/C4IB00208C, Paper


Take a look at our Integrative Biology 2014 HOT Articles Collection!


*Access is free through a publishing personal account. It’s quick, easy and free to register!

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Axon conduction slows in response to spontaneous bursts of neural activity

Neurons are typically though of as all-or-nothing communicators: an action potential—an electrical impulse that triggers the release of chemical neurotransmitters—either fires or doesn’t. However, recent evidence suggests that neurons can change their conduction properties to send gradated signals.

A study published last month in the Royal Society of Chemistry’s journal Integrative Biology is the latest in a spate of papers exploring this phenomenon. Here, a group of Japanese researchers investigated whether axon conduction velocity changed in response to spontaneous neuronal bursting. Bursting is a high frequency but relatively short-lived firing pattern, thought to aid in neural maturation and plasticity. Previous research has shown that repeated neural firing causes membrane hyperpolarization, triggering a decrease in conduction velocity. But because an action potential alters the axonal membrane potential and thus the axon’s conductivity, the finding that spontaneous high-frequency activity (as opposed to that induced by electrical stimulation) produces a similar effect suggests that that conduction slowing may be a more general phenomenon.


Overcoming limitations of previous studies only able to record from stimulated neurons, the researchers designed a sensitive microfabricated device to measure spontaneous firing in individual axons. The device separates cultured neurons into two populations that can communicate only through microtunnels, tiny channels just large enough for axons to grow through but small enough to keep the cell bodies out. Signaling activity along the axon is measured through microelectrodes lining the microtunnels. Once the researchers sorted the recorded spikes—signals of neural firing—by the axon from which they originated, they confirmed that spontaneous bursting activity lead to delays in axon conduction, particularly in more mature neurons. That is, even without a jolt of electrical stimulation, axons can adjust their conductivity based on activity level and environmental conditions.

The full article is free* to access until 30th January 2015 – download now by clicking the link below:

Axonal conduction slowing induced by spontaneous bursting activity in cortical neurons cultured in a microtunnel device

Kenta Shimba, Koji Sakai, Takuya Isomura, Kiyoshi Kotani and Yasuhiko Jimbo
DOI: 10.1039/C4IB00223G

About the webwriter

Laurel Hamers is a recent graduate of Williams College and an aspiring science journalist. She has written for the Marine Biological Laboratory, Inside Science News Service, and the Materials Research Society. You can find her on her blog (sciencescope.wordpress.com) or on Twitter (@arboreal_laurel.)

* Access is free through a registered RSC account – click here to register

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Cell culture insights

Christopher Moraes

New Integrative Biology highlights editor Christopher Moraes from the University of McGill reflects upon recent innovations in the design of microfluidics cell culture platforms that provide new insights into biological processes. This first research highlight is available online now!

Microengineered cell culture systems can recreate physiologically realistic environments allowing scientists to make accurate predictions with regards to cellular responses to potential therapeutic compounds. Being so miniature microfluidic technologies do however limit the amount of biological material available for analysis at the end-point of a reaction. This is where optical imaging becomes a great tool enabling us to study cell function in these miniaturised systems. The materials used in silicone-based microfluidic systems are transparent to visible light and therefore easily adapted to imaging.

Christopher discusses recent advances in super-resolution imaging which have made it possible to observe sub-100 nm scale structures and its integration with microfabricated systems. Once combined, these two technologies will provide unique insight into the special molecular dynamics underlying biological processes and significantly enhance our ability to understand cellular processes under defined, realistic microenvironmental conditions.

Lattice light-sheet microscopy enables high-spatial and high-temporal of sub-cellular structure.

In these example images, a cell is shown migrating though a collagen matrix.

Finally, Christopher highlights the critical roles that optofluidic technologies could play in the future.

The full research highlight ‘Micro, soft, windows: integrating super-resolution viewing capabilities into soft lithographic devices’ can be downloaded for free* on our website. We hope you enjoy reading his summary of recent advances in this new and exciting concept of chip integration.

Don’t miss Christopher’s next Research Highlight article – register for our e-alerts now!

*Access is free through a publishing personal account. It’s quick, easy and free to register.

More about Christopher Moraes

Christopher earned his PhD in mechanical and biomedical engineering at the University of Toronto before holding a Banting/NSERC postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Michigan’s Biointerfaces Institute. As an Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering at McGill University, Christopher’s main interests lie within the development of microengineered tools to probe disease. In 2012 he was awarded the NSERC Howard Alper Postdoctoral Prize for his research combining biology and engineering to create realistic cell culture environments for drug testing. Christopher has also been awarded the Leyerle-CIFAR prize for interdisciplinary research.

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October’s HOT Article!

Article of the month for October, recommended by our referees, is free* to access for a limited time only!


Take a look at our Integrative Biology 2014 HOT Articles Collection!


*Access is free until 05.01.14 through a publishing personal account. It’s quick, easy and free to register!

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September’s HOT Article!

Article of the month for September, recommended by our referees, is free* to access for a limited time only!


An improved interolog mapping-based computational prediction of protein–protein interactions with increased network coverage
Edson Luiz Folador, Syed Shah Hassan, Ney Lemke, Debmalya Barh, Artur Silva, Rafaela Salgado Ferreira and Vasco Azevedo
Integr. Biol., 2014,6, 1080-1087
DOI: 10.1039/C4IB00136B

From themed collection Computational Integrative biology (IB)


Take a look at our Integrative Biology 2014 HOT Articles Collection!


*Access is free until 28.11.14 through a publishing personal account. It’s quick, easy and free to register!

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