Research Institute for Bioresources and Biotechnology
The Laboratory for Plant Gene Function focuses its research on the latest biotechnology which enables precious natural compounds and plant proteins to be made efficiently by plants, using the diverse genetic functions of plants.
New genes that synthesize natural compounds useful in industry, such as carotenoid pigments, sesquiterpene, or highly unsaturated fatty acids, are isolated and functionally analyzed. Then the useful genes that have been identified are introduced into plants or coliform bacilli and manipulated. In terms of the host plants, there are technologies to deal with a range of plant species, such as lettuce, liverworts, cultured tobacco cells, rapeseed and flax. In this way, we are leading the development of new technologies and new materials to contribute to the health and lives of humans on the topic of plant genetic function science, and we have attracted attention from chemical and pharmaceutical companies. At the same time, we aim to nurture top level researchers and technicians in the area of biotechnology.
The Laboratory for Plant Genetic Function Science works on gaining an understanding from a genetic level and utilizing the infinite possibilities of plants. For example, there is research on making liverworts produce eicosanoids, which can be used for drugs. In order to do this, the research involves finding the useful metabolic genes in the liverworts, and then modifying genes from other living organisms and introducing them to the liverworts. In addition, there is also research on enabling astaxanthin (a strong antioxidant pigment) to be made in crops such as lettuce and rapeseed. By enabling this pigment (which is also the red color in not only crabs, prawns and sea bream, but also flamingoes and the crested ibis) to be made in plants, it may have a useful effect on the health of humans as well as the plants themselves.
In addition, the Laboratory is also working on other research projects in the forefront of biotechnology, for example the creation of a plant production system using viral vectors for the enhanced production of useful proteins.
The start of all research begins with simple questioning – why is it like this and why does it become like this?, as well as the strong feeling of wanting to search for the answer. There is an enormous number of plant species, and they have been utilized in a diverse range of fields such as medicine and the environment. The understanding and utilization of these gifts of nature is the key to the success of building a renewable society for the 21st Century, one that will replace the oil dependent civilization of the 20th Century.