Our research focuses on the molecular mechanisms of oncogenic viruses (HTLV-1) and mysterious TSE agents the so-called prions. We are particularly interested in the replication mechanisms and pathogenesis of the infectious agents. Using molecular biological methods, including transgenic animals, we aim to elucidate the nature of prion.

The following projects are currently in progress.
  1. We generated a line of gene-knockout mice lacking prion protein (PrP), which is closely associated with the pathogenesis and transmission of prion diseases, and demonstrated the neuroprotective role of normal PrP. In this process, we accidentally discovered a novel gene encoding a neurotoxic protein, PrP-like protein/Doppel (PrPLP/Dpl). We are interested in determining the molecular basis of the competitive functions of the two proteins.

  2. A newly established cell culture models that is highly permissive to prion infection has allowed us to develop biochemical approaches to elucidate the nature of prions and their replication. We are currently focusing on biological and biochemical analyses of prion strains, which have challenged the protein-only hypothesis proposed by S. B. Prusiner, regarding the nature of prions.

  3. Therapeutic and prophylactic approaches to prion diseases are conducted in collaboration with pharmacologists, structure biologists, and neurologists. We are trying to establish a new diagnostic method for CJD/BSE.

  4. Elucidation of host responses to prion infection is an important aim of our study, and we are also making efforts to establish a vaccine for prion.
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