Laboratory of Parasite Systems Biology
Comparative genomics, Parasitology, Evolutionary biology
Functional genomics, Bioinformatics, Chromatin diminution, Infectious diseases, Longevity
Understanding novel biomechanisms in unexplored areas of biology
1) Developing new model platforms
C. elegans is an outstanding model organism, which has led to multiple Nobel Prize-winning discoveries, such as apoptosis and RNAi. Based on the fundamental knowledge of C. elegans, our study focuses on nematodes other than C. elegans in order to explore fascinating biological phenomena that cannot be studied in model organisms. Parasites, in particular, have evolved in surprising ways to adapt to the special environment within the host body. In the case of mammalian host parasites, the host body is an extremely specialised environment compared to the outside world, with a constant temperature, rich nutrition and immune attack from the host, and the parasites that have adapted to this environment is the 'extreme environment organism' most close to us. Parasitic nematodes, therefore, have various special abilities that the model nematode C. elegans does not have. For example, the research result like "C. elegans life span extended from 20 to 30 days by calory restriction" is treated as big news as a clue to immortality, but some parasitic worms have lifespans in the order of years. Moreover, whereas C. elegans produces around 200 offspring in its lifetime, surprisingly, the parasite continuously produces thousands of eggs per day. This is the kind of productive longevity we should be aiming for. Parasites also have a variety of other surprising abilities and are a veritable treasure trove of research seeds. However, parasite research has largely remained unexplored due to handling difficulties. Using parasite models and C. elegans relatives, we have been trying to elucidate the mechanisms of parasitism and the biological phenomena specific to such parasites. We use a variety of omics analyses (Dry) and phenotyping (Wet) based on genomics to tackle the problems. Currently, two groups of nematodes, in particular, are the main focus of our research: 1) the animal parasite genus Strongyloides, with unique biological features including parasitism, longevity and chromatin diminution, and 2) the long sought-after sister species of C. elegans, C. inopinata (https://academist-cf.com/journal/?p=8481). We also use a wide range of other nematodes and parasites, including insect parasitic nematodes and plant parasitic nematodes, to expand our research into wider biological problems.
2) Contribution to global health
Our research is also aiming at contributing to solving global health problems. The history of humans is also the history of the struggle against infectious diseases, and until now humans have experienced many outbreaks of infectious diseases, which have been turning points in history on various occasions. The recent outbreak of Covid-19 is just one of those, and we will continue to struggle against new infectious diseases in the future. Although cases of parasite infection in Japan are declining, it remains a major problem on a global scale. It is estimated that a quarter of the world's population is infected with soil-transmitted parasites, and parasitic diseases account for the majority of ''neglected tropical infectious diseases'' as designated by the World Health Organisation. Through our research, we will also contribute to overcoming these parasitic diseases.