Applied Biology

appliedbiology1We develop state-of-the-art technology to analyze life phenomena, improve the environment and address issues in human health. As our students master the fundamentals of biology, chemistry, and physics they develop an insatiable desire to pursue phenomena. Students in this program sharpen their awareness of living organisms and their environments, develop an interest in a wide range of natural phenomena, and take on interest-inspired inquiries and observations of unexplained life forms and processes.

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Laboratory Information

Cell Signaling and Engineering laboratory Functional Cell Biology laboratory
Micromolecular compounds produced by microorganisms and plants experience a range of physiological activities and are important as active pharmaceutical components and functional foods, as well as biosensors in life sciences research. This field is concerned with analyzing biomolecular functions through biochemical research methods using key micromolecular compounds and molecular and cell biology research methods. Specifically, we are working to clarify the mechanisms behind complex information transmission and cellular responses by studying animal cells, such as those of humans and mice, with the goal of contributing to the treatment and prevention of cancers, lifestyle-related diseases, and inflammatory diseases. We also analyze and apply research on lytic granule function, special organelles in cytotoxic T-cells, cancer cell destroying natural-killer cells, and virus-infected cells. A human body is made up of more than 37 trillion cells with many different functions. Among them, nerve cells and endocrine cells use neurotransmitters and hormones as signals and are involved in various biological activities. Many questions in nervous and endocrine system science remain unanswered, and there is an increasing demand for disease treatments and regenerative medicine related to these mysteries. Researchers in this field are studying such themes as nerve and endocrine cell receptors, the innervation of gastrointestinal tracts, and function analysis of gap junction, primarily in mammals, using methods and tools such as cell culture, histocytochemistry, and electron microscopes.
Applied Microbiology laboratory Plant Science and Molecular Engineering laboratory
Connecting our knowledge of fundamental microbial metabolism and physiology with the production of valuable materials and the protection of the environment, we seek to improve quality of life. Specifically we study: 1) bacterial metabolism and regulation of glutathione are a peptide that plays the role of reducing agent and antidote, and of polyamines that is necessary for the active growth of cells, 2) the breeding of microorganisms necessary for the efficient production of materials from renewable biomass, 3) the improvement of taste using microbial enzymes; and (4) the stress-resistance mechanism of yeast. We provide a broad spectrum of training from fundamental to applied research. Plants are essential to all organisms on earth. Plants have been used as foods, and are now available as a material for biofuels and bioplastics. Plant-derived fuel and plastics have the potential to mitigate global environmental problems. Researchers in this field are studying various plant functions from biochemical, biomolecular, physiological, and ecological points of view. Because plants are not able to move to another place after germination, their ability to adapt to their environment determines whether they can survive in any given environment. Photosynthesis is an important function of plants, and is known to have a high plasticity to adapt to given environments. We are focusing on the carbon dioxide absorption process during photosynthesis, and studying how the internal structure of leaves, and proteins in leaves, are involved in the transport of carbon dioxide.
Molecular Cell Biotechnology laboratory Neuroscience laboratory
In the human genome project, determination of the nucleotide sequence has been completed, but much remains to be elucidated. Information on molecular interaction to take one example, is not available directly from the DNA sequence. Unfortunately, when we interpret when and which molecules meet, and then, what occurs, we can not understand the information as we read screenplays of movies. In addition, the number of molecules in a cell is much smaller than Avogadro’s number, and in extreme cases only one molecule may be present. The DNA molecule in a bacterial cell is an example of this. We are interested in a group of molecules which bind to DNA and are responsible to the extra-cellular substances which influence transcription. We are also interested in how molecules function in the mechanism of cells escaping from virus infection. We know from our past research that regulating molecules are mostly protein. Now we are seeing that RNAs which are not translated into proteins are also working as regulatory molecules. The complexity of the brain is due to not only a huge number of neurons and complicated nervous networks but also to the variety of neurotransmitters regulating nerve activity, growth factors, and extracellular matrix environments. Recent studies have indicated that neurogenesis and angiogenesis occur in adult mammalian brains, suggesting that the brain has more plastic and complicated feature than initially considered. Our laboratory focuses on the analysis of brain function using mammalian brains. We are studying; 1) the physiological significance of neurogenesis and angiogenesis in the circumventricular organs in the adult mammalian brain, 2) how the brain senses inflammatory signals in the blood stream and transmits that information to brain neural circuits via Toll-like receptors after bacterial infection, (3) how the brain controls body temperature via the transient receptor potential cation channel subfamily during normal and inflammatory conditions.
Human Performance laboratory Structural Biology laboratory
We study human physiology. Humans move their bodies to exercise and to accomplish nearly every task they engage in. We are measuring and assessing human performance using methods from physiological, bio-mechanical, and psychological disciplines to explore the mechanisms and functions of human bodies through statistical analyses. We comprehensively study the mysteries and miracles of human performance from three perspectives: physiological function (e.g. skeletal structure, muscular structure, and nerves); functions that control performance (e.g. nerve-muscle function, respiratory and circulatory function, and motor learning abilities); and the environmental conditions related to performance (motor factors, internal factors, mental factors, and social factors). Protein is a biopolymer that plays a critical role in living systems. The main objective of our group is to determine the three-dimensional structure of proteins using X-ray analysis to understand the structure and functional mechanisms of these proteins at the molecular-level. At the same time, we conduct applied research to design drugs based on our knowledge of the three-dimensional structure of proteins. To this end, our group studies the proteins of Trypanosoma – a protozoan parasite that causes Chagas disease in South America and sleeping sickness in Africa. We also study proteins of the intestinal parasite, Entamoeba histolytica – the causative agent of amoebiasis; and the apicomplexan parasite, Toxoplasma gondii, which causes toxoplasmosis. Our goal is to characterize the three-dimensional structure of the proteins essential for the survival, growth and proliferation of these parasites, and to identify inhibitors of these proteins, based on their three-dimensional structures, which can be further developed into anti-parasitic agents to combat these human and veterinary pathogens.
Insect Biotechnology laboratory Chromosome Engineering laboratory
This field focuses on biotechnologies which make use of the biological functions of silkworms and other insects. Among other topics, we conduct structural analysis of polyhedra, the protein inclusion bodies of insect viruses, to clarify their crystallization and dissolution mechanisms and their protein encapsulation mechanisms. Using the knowledge we gain, we are developing technologies to control the differentiation and proliferation of mammalian cells using polyhedra in which cell growth factors are encapsulated, to contribute to the field of regenerative medicine. We are also developing transgenic technologies to artificially recombine the chromosomal genes of silkworms to develop silk with new functions and to create silkworms with advanced protein production abilities. Furthermore, we are carrying out fundamental research on red flour beetles by using systemic RNAi techniques to find new physiological systems with practical applications. In this laboratory, we are studying the regulatory mechanisms of gene replication and gene expression using a model highly suited to genetic and developmental engineering studies, the fruit fly, Drosophila. We examine the relationship between changes in chromosome structures and the regulation of gene replication and gene expression. We are developing Drosophila models for human diseases by establishing transgenic flies which carry human disease-causing genes. This enables us to conduct such applied research such as the screening of candidate pharmaceuticals using these fly models. Many transcribed mRNAs are translated and function as proteins. Conventionally, in targeting intracellular localization of proteins, mRNA was translated into proteins before it was transported to the target destination in cells. Recent studies, however, are revealing the importance of transporting mRNA to areas where it should function as protein before translation. We are using cultured Drosophila cells and embryos to clarify the mRNA transportation and localization mechanisms.
Insect Physiology and Function laboratory Applied Genomics laboratory
Insects have evolved into a variety of organisms by adapting their lifecycles to various natural environments. They prosper on the earth today. We focus on the adaptability of insects to the environment and aim to elucidate various physiological functions lurking in their survival strategies. In our research, we are working to elucidate the biosynthetic mechanism of pigments related to the expression of phytophagous larval color and the physiological functions of pigment-binding protein, the recycling system of larval cuticle proteins during the metamorphosis from larvae to pupae, and its molecular mechanism. We are also studying the molecular cascade for insect sperm maturation, and are developing a novel Cell-Free Protein Synthesizing System using a silk gland extract. Genome sequencing has been performed for humans and a lot of animal species, and the process continues. Until recently, each field of biological research was narrowly focused on its specialized areas; however, they are now integrating based on the viewpoint of “the gene” and “the genome”, leading to a significant expansion of our knowledge of life. By sequencing the genome of insects such as the silkworm and Drosophila (the vinegar fly), we study (1) the mechanisms of generation and maintenance of genetic diversity, (2) the intergenic functional network, and (3) the mechanism and effects of horizontal gene transfer. We collaborate with intra- and extramural research partners, aiming to achieve outcomes that will be applicable in novel technologies of genetically modified organism production, as well as in sustaining biodiversity.
Applied Entomology laboratory Applied Botany laboratory
Our laboratory studies the biology of herbivore and predator insects through sericultural and chemo-ecological approaches. We are particularly interested in clarifying new silk functions applicable for everyday wear, and also in understanding the cooperative but deceptive social system of eusocial insects supported by various methods of chemical communication. We also work on interspecific interactions between insects and plants, e.g., pollinator-and-host plants, and between insects, e.g., social parasites-and-their host. Our research methods include lab and field experiments, a variety of entomological and microanalyical techniques, and comparative analyses. We have grown many kinds of edible, industrial, and forage plants and studied their morphological, physiological, and ecological features. Our current research focuses on revealing the effects of various environmentally friendly agricultural techniques on soil properties and crop growth under field conditions.
Evolutionary Genomics laboratory Biomedical and Developmental Biology laboratory
The systems of living organisms must be robust as well as accurate. Even when genetic conditions are in some way aggravated or flawed, the genome contains systems that can keep functioning despite minor faults. On the other hand, life has never stopped evolving. It has an evolutionary capability to adapt itself to the environment. Our research takes advantage of both “wet examination” using genetics and molecular and cellular biology and “dry analysis” using theoretical biology, including population-genetic analysis and computer simulations, in order to elucidate the genetic and cellular functional mechanisms that maintain the seemingly contradictory phenomena of robustness and adaptation of life. Quite a few genes responsible for diseases like cancer or diabetes mellitus are associated with cell division and regulation of cell growth. For this reason, in order to understand the pathogenic mechanisms of these diseases we investigate the formation and breakdown of the nuclear membrane, chromosome and organelle partitioning, and cytoplasmic division with novel cell biological analysis methods using Drosophila (the vinegar fly) as an experimental model suitable for genetic investigation. In addition, we study the regulatory factors involved in insulin signal transduction and are engaged in an interuniversity collaboration for molecular analysis of gene functions associated with biological aging in order to identify anti-aging substances. Based on our research outcomes with insect models, our aim is to contribute to understanding of the pathogenic mechanisms of human diseases.

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