Zealous Researchers of University of Tokyo
Zealous Researchers of University of Tokyo
  • Reporter Kim Seo-yeon
  • 승인 2019.02.11 22:58
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This winter holiday, The Postech Times had the opportunity to visit Japan and explore prestigious Japanese universities, one being the University of Tokyo (UTokyo). UTokyo is one of the most reputable research-oriented universities, and The Postech Times was fortunate enough the interview one of the most insightful professors, Professor Yukiko Matsunaga, Associate Professor of the Institute of Industrial Science (ISS). 
After specializing in Biomedical Engineering, Prof. Matsunaga actively conducted researches on ‘Microvasculature tissue model for drug development and regenerative medicine’. Last year, she created a ‘vessel-on-chip’ technology which provides an in-vitro system that allows the study of vessel formation and effects of drugs on angiogenesis – the growth and sprouting of new vessels from a parent vessel. Although angiogenesis is a necessary process for growth and survival, because it is also the causation of the development and spreading of cancer, Prof. Matsunaga’s in-vitro technology is a leading feature in the SMMIL-E project, a joint Japanese-French project against cancer.
The in-vitro system consists of a PDMS chip, collagen, and human endothelial cells – cells that form the human vessels. The chip is shaped to have two openings leading to one hollow tube, and a needle is inserted through the passage. The collagen can be inserted from both openings to form a collagen tube, and, after the collagen solidifies, the needle is removed to form a hollow collagen tunnel. Then human endothelial cells are inserted into the collagen tunnel, forming an in-vitro vessel. The in-vitro vessel was confirmed to act like a real human vessel in the body since the fabricated vessel showed the same effects as to when real human vessels were activated by VEGF – primary proteins responsible for angiogenesis. When anti-angiogenesis drugs, sorafenib and sunitinib, were added to the in-vitro system, it revealed that, although both drugs prevented new vessel growth, only sorafenib made the vessels highly permeable. Based on these results, Prof. Matsunaga asserts that such technology will be useful in further developing drugs targeting cancer and other blood vessel-related diseases.
When asked why she chose UTokyo for research, Prof. Matsunaga claimed two main reasons: the motivated people and the connections with international universities. She insisted that an important aspect of life is putting oneself in motivating environment and explained that UTokyo was perfect since the researchers and students are very inspired. Prof. Matsunaga also emphasized the worldwide connections of UTokyo with other prestigious international universities. She explained that she accepts international internship students annually and that four to five students had joined her lab for three months during the past summers. She also mentioned her French student in her lab, Joris Pauty, the scientist who designed the new in-vitro blood vessel.
After the interview, Prof. Matsunaga kindly took The Postech Times around the research building and her lab herself. Everyone could feel the motivated atmosphere of the lab since, although it was early in the morning at 10 A.M., there were two graduates already conducting experiments. Prof. Matsunaga also gave the reporters the opportunity to see the shapes of their own capillaries and blood flows using a capillary scope called Kekkan Bijin. It was an unforgettable experience to converse with one of the most intellectual researchers, to observe a lab of cutting-edge technology, and to feel the motivated ambiance of UTokyo.