There are many approaches to examine cellular functions. The biochemical method is an approach to investigate "substances", mainly molecules themselves such as nucleic acids and proteins. The physiological method, including electrophysiology, enables rigorous and continuous measurement of physical parameters such as current and force to precisely describe "phenomena". The cell biology method provides precise spatial information, or "shape", at the subcellular level. In modern life science, researchers are trying to describe the mechanism of cellular functions by gathering the facts discovered by individual approaches from the different viewpoints of "substances", "phenomena", and "shapes". We are aiming at building a next-generation physiology that treats "substances", "phenomena", and "shapes" as a trinity, by development and application of state-of-the-art methods such as molecular imaging method and RNAi technology.
Looking into “dynamic” live cells
The characteristics in our work is to unravel the various mechanisms of cellular functions by live-cell fluorescence imaging. This is realized by applying “fluorescence probes” that enable monitoring of molecules and conditions inside and outside the cells. The approach of visualizing molecular dynamics in live cells clearly reveals temporal and spatial behaviors of molecules of interest so that we know in details where and how the molecules act in the cells. In this sense, the experiment system itself is making it possible to treat "substances", "phenomena", and "shapes" as the trinity.
Visualizing biological phenomena using the power of “chemistry”
Life science research will progress along with innovation in analytical technology. We are developing innovative fluorescence probes and related technologies for visualization of cellular molecules, by making use of techniques such as in organic chemistry and chemical biology. By an interdisciplinary approach that elegantly combines "chemistry" and "biology", we are taking major steps forward to witness the real image of lively cellular molecule that supports various cellular functions.
Understanding the “nano” mechanism of synaptic transmission
In recent years, much attention has been paid to revealing the relationship between the nanoscale spatial arrangement of functional molecules in synapses and the control and maintenance of synaptic functions and plastic transformation. By skillfully applying super-resolution fluorescence imaging technology, we are working on elucidating the fundamental mechanism of synaptic transmission that was unable to reveal with the existing methodology. Furthermore, our research also focuses on the relationship between psychiatric disorders and the nano-arrangement abnormality of synaptic molecules. We hope to contribute to the understanding of the pathophysiological mechanisms of mental disorders and the development of therapeutic strategies by the nanoscale approach.