Hokkaido University Research Profiles

Life Sciences

Alpha-defensins Prompting a Paradigm Shift in the Intestinal Environment

From a scientific understanding of ishoku-dougen (an idea that the same principles underlie a normal diet and medical treatment) to preventive medicine

The α-defensins secreted by Paneth cells regulate the intestinal microflora and are deeply involved in their elimination and symbiosis. We will evaluate the intestinal environment from the viewpoint that the intestinal environment is defined by the three elements of food, α-defensins and intestinal bacteria, and create a paradigm shift to contribute to the clarification of disease mechanisms and the development of preventive medicine.

Content of research

Using isolated small intestinal crypts and enteroids, which are three-dimensional small intestinal epithelial culture systems, we will elucidate the innate immunity of Paneth cells, which are intestinal epithelial cells (that secreteα-defensins), symbiosis with intestinal bacteria, regeneration and differentiation and other molecular mechanisms associated with various functions, taking advantage of state-of-the-art analytical methods such as confocal laser microscopy and flow cytometry. The intestine forms a network between various organs in the body and by analyzing the mechanism of the intestinal environment focused on the function of Paneth cells will make it possible to control the intestinal environment and create preventive measures and treatments for various diseases. From the perspective of the intestines, “food” and “drugs” virtually mean the same thing. We hope to contribute to the realization of a healthy longevity society through industry-academia-community collaboration based on the knowledge we have created.

Potential for social implementation

  • ・Creation and social implementation of a health monosashi (measuring standard)
  • ・Evaluation of novel functionalities of foods, materials and ingredients
  • ・Analysis of the pathogenesis of diseases
  • ・Development of preventive medicine and new treatment methods
  • ・Clinical testing and tailor-made medicine
  • ・Regenerative medicine

Appealing points to industry and local governments

Intestinal epithelial cells play an important role in innate immunity, nutrient absorption, regeneration/differentiation, metabolism, endocrinology, and brain-gut correlation. By evaluating functional foods, materials, ingredients, drug candidates and microorganisms using our state-of-the-art intestinal environment evaluation system that mimics the gut of living organisms, we can cause an intestinal environment paradigm shift and realize ishoku-dougen, the concept that the same principles underlie a normal diet and medical treatment, based on our scientific understanding.