Functional Chemistry

Learning from Biomolecules and Creating Functional Substances

We are engaged in research and education with a focus on the measurement and analysis of the structures and functions of a wide variety of biomolecules concerned with the activities of living organisms; the control of substance functionality based on the findings of such measurements and analysis; the creation and application of functional substances and the development of leading analysis and measurement methods.

Educational Program

In this program, to raise the fundamental ability to create bio-functional substances and analyze the functions of new substances, we provide graduate-level education in the fields of biomolecular chemistry, analytical chemistry, molecular structural chemistry, structure and function of biological macromolecules, chemical engineering and more. In other words, based on undergraduate-level education in the fields of physical chemistry, analytical chemistry, organic chemistry, polymer chemistry, biochemistry and more, students come to understand complex properties and structures of proteins, nucleic acids, polysaccharides, and physiologically active substances, and develop the ability to take that understanding to the creation of new materials. Regarding spectroscopy and analytical chemistry, which are essential to analyzing the functionalities of such a wide variety of materials with a high degree of accuracy, students develop an understanding of fundamental principles and obtain fundamental measurement and analytical skills.

Our lectures are divided into the five categories of physics/analytical chemistry, polymer chemistry, organic chemistry, bio-related chemistry and applied chemistry. Added to these are practical research and practica, through which students come to understand scientific principles while obtaining skills and methods. Furthermore, we provide students with off-campus presentation opportunities to improve their judgement, presentation skills and other related abilities through practical experience.

Laboratory Information

Molecular Structural Chemistry Biophysical Chemistry
The major objective of our research is to interpret biological chemical reactions from a structural chemistry perspective using physicochemical methods. Research themes are 1) kinetic analysis of oxidation-reduction behavior and antioxidant reactions of biological molecules (peptides, nucleic acid-derived radicals, reactive oxygen radicals, vitamins, anticancer agents); and 2) precise structural determination and functional analysis of biological molecules (nucleic acid, proteins, peptides, naturally biologically active substances). Our research methods: After chemically synthesizing biological molecules or purifying biological molecules extracted from natural organisms, we identify the correlations between their functionalities and structures using various spectroscopic and electrochemical measurements, such as magnetic resonance (ESR and NMR). We also make theoretical investigations of structure-activity correlations using a combination of molecular force fields, molecular orbitals, and molecular dynamics calculations. Our primary focus is on optics and living organisms. Our research emphasizes bioluminescence molecular mechanisms, the molecular function of luminescent enzymes and fluorescent proteins, optical signal transduction of intracellular information and bioimaging, search and construction of new luminescence-related proteins, determination of the spatial structure of proteins involved in infections, and structural and biological analysis of the functional spatial structural correlations of a wide variety of proteins. Specific research themes are:
(1) Biomolecular theoretical research on bioluminescence (ultimate factors of bioluminescence) and nonlinear spatio-temporal analysis
(2) Construction of expression system structures of fluorescent proteins, luminescent enzymes and fusion proteins, and their application to environmental toxicity evaluation and bioassay
(3) Optical signaling and bioimaging of intracellular network information
(4) Determination of the three-dimensional structure of virulence factor proteins and identification of the molecular mechanism of infiltration and toxicity development.
Analytical Chemistry Chemical and Biochemical Engineering
Analytical chemistry aims to develop new methodologies for the elucidation of natural phenomena important to chemistry, yet unaddressed until now. This discipline covers a wide range of areas.
We develop separation and analysis methods that can be widely utilized in the field of life science as well as, in global environmental and energy issues, and thereby discover new principles and laws of natural science. Specifically, we 1) develop new methods for separation and determination using soft interfaces between liquid and soft materials such as gels, emulsions and ionic liquids; 2) conduct electrochemical research on thermodynamics, kinetics and nonlinear phenomena involved in the membrane transport of electric charges (biomembranes, liquid membranes, polymer membranes, etc.); 3) analyze the accumulation mechanisms of ionic compounds —ionic drugs, penetration peptides, etc—into biomembranes and apply those to novel dose methods for drugs; and 4) develop practical electrochemical devices for ion-sensing.
Our laboratory develops core technologies related to medicine and bioprocesses based on the unit operation perspectives developed in biochemical and bioprocess engineering. More specifically, we develop a mass production process for useful materials using microbes, such as E. coli, lactic acid bacteria and yeasts, as a host. For example, we develop mass-production technology for lactic acid, an ingredient for xylitol and bioplastic, using waste resources such as corn cobs. We also develop mass production processes for low-molecular antibodies, which are being looked to for use in therapeutic and test drugs. In our development of an immunoassay method, a diagnostic technique using antibodies, we are seeking to establish a measurement technique that assesses minute amounts of specific antigen in blood and body fluids. Precise control of the immobilized density and orientation on a material’s surface enables a diagnosis to be made quicker, more easily and with higher sensitivity than before.
Rubber and Elastomer Science Biopolymer Chemistry
Rubbers and elastomers are polymers that serve as fundamentally important materials in our lives. These are essential soft materials for a wide variety of devices such as tires, seismic isolation rubbers and medical materials. In our laboratory, systematic research is conducted on the relationships among the synthesis, structure and properties of rubbers and elastomers. To serve as a world-leading research center, we focus on: 1) the science of natural rubber and its hybrid materials; 2) vulcanization and reinforcement of rubbers; 3) nanotechnology in rubber materials; and 4) development of high-performance and high-function rubber materials for sustainability science. We strive to make an impact on rubber science and technology for the benefit of the world. Our research investigates new protein engineering and polymer chemistry combining biotechnology and applies it in the fields of pharmaceuticals, food technology and environmental engineering. We create functional nanofibers that control immunology and cell growth using technology combining genetic modification and peptide engineering. We also design biomolecules using cutting-edge biochemical analytical technology to develop therapeutic agents and functional foods. More specifically, our research focuses on the following three areas:
1) the search for and development of functional molecules that control neurodegenerative disease,
2) mechanisms for the formation of polypeptide nanofibers and application to medical engineering materials, and
3) the development of enzyme-compounded polymer matrices that decompose environmental gases.
Bioregulation Chemistry Biofunctional Chemistry
Our laboratory uses the tools of chemistry, including organic chemistry, polymer chemistry, physiological chemistry, and biochemistry, in the study of the interactions and biological functions of nucleic acids and enzymes. We utilize artificially designed molecules, such as functional oligonucleotides with fluorescence dyes, Raman tags, and photo-reactive derivatives, to establish the principles of gene therapy for new biomedicines and gene technology for cancer diagnosis. From among a wide variety of functional biomolecules produced by organisms, our research identifies molecules useful for healthcare and agriculture, elucidates their structures and mechanisms, and applies them to practical uses. Using biochemical methods, we research: 1) the control of metabolic syndrome: We use animal models and cells to search for and identify natural substances which prevent metabolic syndrome, and study their mechanisms, 2) the control of infections: We isolate and identify lytic bacteriophage and natural antimicrobial substances to control infectious diseases, mainly in agriculture and stock farming, 3) the elucidation of sick building syndrome: We analyze changes in the body caused by chemicals using Drosophila, to study its pathogenic mechanisms.
Center for Environmental Science
Environmental Measurement Technology
Many issues potentially threaten the survival of humankind, including global-level environmental problems such as climate change, ozone layer depletion, acid rain, water, air and soil contamination, large-scale waste discharge and resource depletion. We develop technologies for measuring trace pollutants in the environment and use these developments to analyze environmental dynamics and assess environmental impacts with an eye to identifying and addressing environmental issues. Our research focuses on:
1) Identifying causes of increases in ROS (refractory organic substances) in “closed water environments” such as Lake Biwa;
2) Identifying the cycles of matter and the impacts of low oxygenation of bottom sediments in Lake Biwa;
3) Investigating the dynamics and environmental impacts of acid depositions and hazardous substances in the atmosphere—cross-border pollutants from mainland China, such as yellow sand and PM2.5; and
4) Studying environmental safety issues, such as treatment methods for difficult-to-treat wastes, chemical substance management and working-environment measurement.