INTERVIEWThoughts of person concerned

January 2017

Becoming the base of knowledge of silkworm silk research is key to the development of future projects

As a basic research subject, many silkworms have accumulation and usefulness

 Bombyx mori silkworm is one of insects that could analyze all genome early as it has been studied as an object of genetics research since long ago alongside Drosophila and others.
It is also called "the oldest livestock" because of insects that can live for the first time with the hands of the people, and the relationship between humans and silkworms is old and deep.
Besides the characteristics that it does not fly further, it is very easy to handle as research subjects, and from the viewpoint of the world, research on silkworms has been developing since ancient times, mainly in Europe and Asia where it crosses the Silk Road.
For example, countries such as China and France where the sericulture is developing as an industry in the first place, it can be seen that the development from the technology development to the field of entomology is developed considerably.
As a matter of course, since there is a history traditionally useful in silkworms in Japan, it has been treated as an object of basic research from the early stage.
It is said that BRATAC of Brazil which is one of the largest production areas of silk now is based on research and technology brought by Japanese immigrants.

 Well, using such silkworms, I am currently studying "the mechanism by which medicine works" at Kumamoto University. There are proteins called receptors in cells, which distinguish specific substances and reading out information outside the cell.
In other words, medicine is working on this receptor, and the research of receptors will be of great help in the development of medicines, functional foods, supplements, cosmetics, pesticides etc.
Especially my aim is to make agricultural chemicals pinpoint only specific insect pests.
That way you can prevent the destruction of the surrounding ecosystems by large-scale pesticide spraying.
So I mentioned earlier, but because of the ease of use and the fact that the pests are many caterpillar fellows who eat leaves, we selected a similar strain of silkworm as the subject of experiment and selected the next generation type of pesticide We are conducting research to make it useful for development.

 In addition, from the study of feeding behavior of silkworm, we also found that behavior is controlled by the same cell signal as humans.
In the future, I would like to make use of silkworms for research to improve human health and illness. Although research on human diseases is mainstream using rats and mice, considering ethical problems, if we can substitute silkworms, it will be a big breakthrough.

Stable production is also a big advantage for research

 Regarding the possibility of the "SILK on VALLEY" project, "utilization as fiber" is the top priority, but when we look at researchers like me, first of all, high quality and stable supply of silkworms will be done We are looking forward to "Manufacturing useful and high value added substances" in many cases.
For example, by incorporating the gene of the recipient we handle into silkworms, we can make receptors in silkworms.
By doing this, we can conduct research such as drug screening and evaluation of functional food ingredients.
Moreover, if we can make substances useful for human diseases in the silkworm body, we think that it will be possible to produce anticancer drugs in the future.
Even in such a sense I feel that it will be a great advantage to be able to supply silkworm stably under sterile conditions.

 In this way, while continuing to disseminate new brand silk to the world, I hope that Kumamoto and Yamaga will develop as a base for knowledge of silk and silkworm research in the future.
To that end, our university researchers have a network of research, but there are places where expertise is too diverse and there is not a good cooperation, so it is important to strengthen collaboration among researchers.
It is also important for people who are considering medical and textile business using silks and silkworms to make systems that allow them to receive advice well from silkworm researchers and experts.
If researchers and engineers gather in this area more and more while involving a lot of people, the possibility of practical application will expand further and I think that this project will develop more and more.

Mr. Ota, who answers each question carefully to questions about the usefulness of silkworms received at student silk · seminar 2016 by many students.