Net Journal 7
Discovery and classification of new types of virus causing “pink eye”
----Can you give examples of research achievements made in your lab?
Dr. Koyanagi: An example of a recent topic is our collaborative research with the School of Medicine on adenoviruses. Adenoviruses cause pneumonia, conjunctivitis, and other infectious diseases, and include those types characterized by a high level of virulence, such as the one causing “pink eye” (epidemic keratoconjuctivitis), which is prevalent during the warm season. In our research, comparison of entire genome sequences of new types of adenovirus discovered in Japan with those of existing adenoviruses revealed that multiple genetic recombinations with other adenoviruses have occurred in the new species (Fig. 1). We are now conducting further research to determine whether the number and location of the recombinations are related to the virulence of the virus.
Figure 1. Genetic recombinations in adenoviruses
Evolution of genomes of new types of adenoviruses: Colored parts are regions in the genome believed to have undergone recombinations with other types. Circles denote recombination events.
Moving towards the next step in an environment that allows access to diverse areas of research
----What kind of research themes do you plan to pursue in the future?
Dr. Koyanagi: With regard to adenoviruses, for example, we have been analyzing virus samples isolated in different periods from research institutions all over Japan to track the genetic changes that have taken place since the 1980s until the present time. We would also like to compare with samples from overseas and analyze geographical and other differences. Through this research, we hope to identify the particular region in the genome responsible for disease development and the high virulence of the Japanese strains. This is an example of how we would like to pursue research to understand the relationship of genomes and phenotypes from the standpoint of evolution.
Activities in the lab cover a wide variety of fields, including research on human and rice genomes and exploration of new deep-sea species （Ex. 2, Photo 1)). I think one of the attractive features of genome research is being able to study various organisms and life phenomena. Although genome research covers a wide range of topics, the Graduate School of Information Science and Technology gathers under one roof faculty coming from varied backgrounds, not only in engineering, but also in the sciences, agriculture, and other fields. We also have access to computer-based analysis methods, such as image processing and statistical analyses. Therefore, I think we can say that we have the best environment for conducting research involving large-scale data. Research that has not been possible ten years ago can now be possible with the current technology and knowledge at our disposal.