At the present time Japan is the nation with the highest longevity owing to the advances made in medicine and medical technologies, and the early diagnosis and prevention of the progression of neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia, cancer, and metabolic disorders are of utmost importance and urgent matters of interest. It has become evident that these diseases are caused by genetic mutations, deposition of degenerated proteins, and excessive storage of body fuel, which are essential for normal functions in the body. Although recent progress in imaging and pathological diagnosis has enabled us to make early diagnosis of many diseases and to conduct better follow-up, a good outcome of treatment is not always achieved due to many pathogenic factors. In order to cope with this situation, in 2011 we applied for a 5-year project entitled “Systematic elucidation of pathogenesis and development of diagnosis and treatment by molecular imaging” to the government program for the foundation of strategic research at private universities, supported by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology of Japan. Upon acceptance of our application, we established the Molecular Imaging Center of Diseases (MICD) in September 2011. Our whole-university project has focused on 1) elucidation of the pathogenesis of various diseases through molecular dynamics studies and identification of stem cells by fluorescence imaging, 2) the search for and identification of candidate molecules involved in various diseases and their localization by molecular imaging, and 3) the establishment of animal disease models and analyses of patients’ samples for the development of better diagnosis and treatment.
 On the occasion of consolidating the campus in Hirakata in April 2013, to promote collaborative research and translational research among basic and clinical departments, we started three activities: a cancer-oriented consortium, a regenerative medicine consortium, and lunch-time research talks among basic medical departments. At that time we established MICD on the 5th floor of the north wing of the Hirakata campus. Furthermore, we introduced a training course for future physician scientists in the medical school and a meeting of head scientific physicians in clinical departments for cultivating young researchers. As the result of promoting collaborative research with other laboratories in Japan and abroad, the project has progressed satisfactorily, as evidenced by the publication of more than 250 papers in foreign journals. Furthermore, the project has received high valuation by the advisory board members of MICD. We sincerely hope that this five-year research project will have served as a launch pad for a new program that continues research initiated by our project and that our new institute will become an international research foundation at the Hirakata campus.

May 2016

Outline of project

1. University: Kansai Medical University

2. Organization: Molecular Imaging Center of Diseases

3. Project Title: Systematic elucidation of pathogenesis and development of diagnosis and treatment by molecular imaging

4. Management

The center consists of three research divisions of neuroscience, cancer and metabolic disorders, each of which is managed by two division heads from basic and clinical fields, and a supporting division. The division heads integrate research in the division and adjust matters between divisions. The management committee deliberates and determines an annual plan, budget and outcome and other pertinent issues of the project. We promote a wide-range research from basic to clinical medicine focusing on

  • Neuroscience: neural function and neural plasticity, neurodegenerative diseases
  • Cancer: identification of tissue and cancer stem cells, mechanisms of oncogenesis and matastasis
  • Metabolic disorders: inflammation, vessels and connective tissues, aging, and metabolic diseases
  • Supporting Division: assistance to the project members to promote research activities and to cultivate young researchers.

    Research activities are evaluated by three outside members of advisory board.

    Director Seiji Ito
    Vice-director Hiroo Ueno
    Division head Basic Clinical
    Neuroscience Hisao Yamada Hirofumi Kusaka
    Cancer Jun-ichi Fujisawa Koichi Tomoda(2011-2014)
    Shosaku Nomura(2015)
    Metabolic Disorders Tomoyuki Nakamura Kazuichi Okazaki

    Research facilities, apparatuses, and equipment

    Name of facility Fiscal year Research facility area Operational expenses Subsidy
    Molecular Imaging Center of Diseases 2011 m2
    (Unit: 1,000)
    (Unit: 1,000)
    2012 812 135,325 67,662

    [Apparatus and equipment]

    Name Fiscal year of installation Model number Operational expenses Subsidy
    Mass spectrometer 2011 IMAGING-MS FOR
    (Unit: 1,000)
    (Unit: 1,000)
    Advanced fluorescence imaging system
    for cellular function analyses
    2012 Image Stream imaging
    flow cytometer
    72,000 36,000
    Multi-Modality microPET/SPECT/CT 2014 Inveon 75,060 -
    Infrared imaging system Odyssey 2011 LI-COR9201-00 7,300 4,866
    HS All-in-one fluorescence microscope 2011 BZ-90000 13,477 8,980

    [Research expenses]

    Fiscal year Experimental supplies Communications & transportation Travel Outsourcing Meeting Miscellaneous Maintenance
    2011 (Unit: 1,000)
    (Unit: 1,000)
    (Unit: 1,000)
    (Unit: 1,000)
    (Unit: 1,000)
    (Unit: 1,000)
    (Unit: 1,000)
    2012 40,712 118 1,480 4,443 224 612 5,362
    2013 33,935 460 2,081 3,615 421 653 359
    2014 43,006 261 1,173 3,291 112 1,569 3,693
    2015 39,803 223 1,339 6,638 342 619 2,595
    Fiscal year Commission Lease Welfare Personnel Machinery appliance Book Total (Yen)
    2011 22 373 0 1,478 12,488 86 54,135
    2012 343 0 8 1,276 27,327 63 81,968
    2013 342 Printing & Bookbinding Utilities 2,321 15,608 183 62,855
    162 2,715
    2014 155 0 3,086 7,014 13,165 41 76,566
    2015 263 367 2,696 7,361 23,877 97 86,220

    Core members of the Center

    Core members
    Division of Neuroscience 11 departments
    Division of Cancer 11 departments
    Division of Metabolic Disorders 11 departments

    Cooperative members
    Prof. Tatsuyosi Nakahata
    (Center for iPS Cell Research and Application, Kyoto University)
    Prof. Mitsutoshi Setou
    (Cell Biology & Anatomy, Hamamatsu University School of Medicine)
    Dr. Yoshihiro Ohmiya
    (Bioproduction Research Institute, National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology)

    Advisory board members

    Advisory Board
    Division of Neuroscience Prof. Min Zhuo
    (University of Toronto, Dept. of Physiology,Molecular Brain, Molecular Pain, Editor-in-chief)
    Division of Cancer Prof. Tadashi Yamamoto
    (Cell Signal Unit, Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology)
    Metabolic Disorders Dr. John Hanover
    (Lab. Chief, Cell Biochemistry and Biology, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, NIH, U.S.A.)

    Foundation of research base and cultivation of young researchers in Molecular Imaging Center of Diseases (MICD)

     MICD was moved from Takii campus to the 5th floor of the north wing of Hirakata campus in March 2013. Laboratories belong to individual departments are located on 2 and 8-12 floors of the central building of Hirakata campus and researchers of all departments can access to the MICD within a few minutes’ walk. Many conventional microscopes such as fluorescent microscopes and confocal microscopes as well as all-in-one fluorescence microscope are gathered in the microscopic room (Fig.1, upper left) and two-photon microscope and imaging mass microscope are set in respective rooms (lower left) of the MICD. To translate basic research to clinical application, SPECT/CT instrument was installed in RI imaging room (upper right) in December, 2014. The idea of Clinical Central Research Laboratory (CCRL) (lower middle and right) is unique to Japanese medical schools and will promote the collaborative research among clinical departments. To proceed research smoothly and efficiently, a technical assistant is arranged for management and maintenance of CCRL.

    Fig.1 Map of MICD on 5th floor of the north wing of Hirakata campus

     To promote collaborative research beyond divisions of Neuroscience, Cancer and Metabolic Disorders, and translational research from basic to clinical medicine such as early diagnosis and treatment, three activities started on the occasion of consolidating the campus in Hirakata in April 2013 (Fig.2). 1) Cancer-oriented consortium forms a group research concerning diagnosis, treatments and complications of cancer in clinic, 2) Regenerative medicine consortium which accelerates translational research from basic to clinical research and will extend to the treatment by regenerative medicine, and 3) research talk at lunch where an outline of research and experimental data are presented and discussed mainly by researchers of departments belonging to basic medicine at lunch once a month.

    Fig.2 Management of MICD and 4 research activities of the University

    1)Cancer-oriented consortium aims at promoting collaborative research among departments concerning identification of caner stem cells, development of diagnosis and treatment of cancer, and complications of cancer. Research grant for cancer-oriented consortium was founded in 2013 and the application was classified into 4 themes: 1. medical treatment and cancer stem cells, 2. group research on novel anti-cancer drugs (e.g. tyrosine kinase inhibitors), 3. study on cancer therapy and its complications, and 4. cancer research contributing to opening endowed departments. In 2013 and 2014, 12 and 10 themes were chosen. In 2015 the themes were narrowed down to 4. The research outcomes of the grants were presented at the annual academic meetings of the University on February 12, 2014, March 13, 2015, and March 18, 2016 (Supplementary Information 1).

    2) Regenerative medicine consortium held a research meeting for promoting translational research and clinical application every 3 months. The participating departments introduced their research activities and discussed toward clinical application. In parallel, research grant for it was founded and 2 to 3 research groups were selected every year. “Development of regenerative technology for elastic fibers” and “Surgical resection of breast cancer and breast restoration” were selected in 2014, 2015. The outcomes were presented at the annual academic meetings of the University (Supplementary Information 2).

    3) Research talk at lunch among basic medical science departments is held on the third Tuesday of every month starting on April 16, 2013. Research outlines of departments, progress reports or technical notes were introduced by researchers. Every time, 2 researchers present their work and 50-70 members attend the meeting. After 1st round where chief investigators or professors outlined research themes and prominent results of the departments, senior members of the department and young researchers have introduced their own research or technologies useful for other researchers. Research talk at lunch is worthy to promote collaborative research and exchange information among young researchers. In 2016, this activity will expand to researchers in clinical departments (Supplementary Information 3).

     In 2013, 2 students were permitted to increase admission capacity as physician scientist by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology of Japan and the training course of future physician scientists was established in the Medical School of the University (Supplementary Information 4). In parallel, we started a consortium of the training course of future physician scientists in liaison with Nara Medical University, Osaka Medical College, Hyogo College of Medicine and Kobe University Faculty of Medicine to foster research mind in medical students and cultivate young researchers of basic medical science.

     In 2014, head scientific physicians were assigned in clinical departments for enhancing their research activities, and supporting young researchers and their meeting is held every month (Supplementary Information 5). In 2015, the Clinical Research Support Center was established to assist clinical research.

     In addition to the annual meetings of MICD, special lectures by Prof. Hideyuki Okano (Keio University Faculty of Medicine) and Group Director the late Yoshiki Sasai (RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology) were held on March 21, 2013 and March 22, 2014. In 2015, Drs. Shigetada Nakanishi, Shigekazu Nagata, Yoshimi Takai and Masatoshi Takeichi gave lectures for graduate students and MICD members. During this 5-year project, 70 lectures were held by invited speakers including above mentioned well-known researchers. Technical seminars were also held for researchers and graduate students. Young researchers had an opportunity to give a talk at meetings including annual meetings of MICD and academic meetings of the University.

     As shown in Fig.2, these 5 years MICD has centered various research activities of the University and collaborative research, translational research and clinical research have been gradually cultivated and sprouted among researchers. This 5-year research project will have served as a launch pad for a new program that continues research initiated by the project and a new institute that will be established in the near future at the Hirakata campus.