Director's Message

IMS will be a pioneer to create the medical science of the future and contribute to human health

The RIKEN Center for Integrative Medical Sciences (IMS) was established in April, 2013 with the aim of creating innovative medical science and contributing to the future of human health. To accomplish these goals, IMS will apply interdisciplinary approaches to create a new research area, "integrative medical sciences." The integrative medical sciences include genome-wide medical science, molecular and biochemical sciences, immunology and physiology, quantitative sciences, and bioinformatics. Research in these areas should reveal how we human beings cope with environmental changes or pathogen assault to maintain homeostasis. This combined approach will lead to a translational research program through which individualized treatments for prevention and therapy against various diseases will become a reality.
The human body normally maintains homeostasis, and thus we are not easily affected by internal or external environmental disturbances. However, disruption of this homeostatic balance can trigger diseases, often serious ones. IMS aims to elucidate how homeostasis is maintained and how its disruption causes disease. This knowledge will be combined with insights gained from genome research, which identifies human genetic and epigenetic diversity and consequent disease susceptibility. Using this integrated approach, IMS will spearhead the development of personalized preventive medicine and therapeutics.
Tadashi Yamamoto
Director,
RIKEN Center for Integrative Medical Sciences

RIKEN Center for Integrative Medical Sciences

Principles

IMS will transcend the existing scientific boundaries for the creation of new research areas
01 Transcend the compartmentalization of the different layers of body components
To explain how the body is maintained, the existing science divided the components of living organisms and studied each part in isolation. This approach is often called reductionism. For example, the human body can be viewed as a collection of various components in multiple layers: organs (muscles, bones, intestines etc.) that constitute the body, cells that make up the organs, enormous numbers of different proteins contained in a cell, and genes that draft the proteins. In a practical sense, these layers are separated and difficult to connect to each other. We can recognize disease symptoms with our naked eyes, but a defective gene that causes the disease is too small to see. We are not able to tell how one small change in a gene triggers the abnormalities at the level of proteins, cells and organs to initiate a disease. To overcome this difficulty, the goal of IMS is to transcend the different component layers in life sciences and find a key to preventive medicine and therapeutics.
02 Transcend species differences
We are not able to conduct research using living humans. Thus, experimental animals such as mouse, dog and monkey are usually used for scientific research. Like us, they are all mammals, yet, each species has different body structures and biology. When a new drug is brought to human clinical trial, it sometimes causes unexpected reactions, even though its safety had been rigorously verified in experimental animals. To overcome the difficulties in studying the human immune system, IMS has been developing "humanized mice" whose own immune system is replaced by a human one. IMS has also been developing technologies to generate human immune cells from iPS cells. With the aim of understanding human diseases and development of future medical technologies, IMS tries to transcend the species differences.
03 Transcend human diversity
Each person has the own face, personality, and body characteristics. These are different among individuals because they are built up based on each person's genome. These diverse genetic traits make each of us different. Some genetic differences determine susceptibility to diseases and others play a role in responses to medications. Thus, when treated with drugs, individuals respond differently, with some people responding well but others being susceptible to side effects. IMS will analyze human genomic diversity and promote research into personalized medicine, which will allow patients to choose preventive procedures and therapeutic drugs that are best suited to their individual profile.
04 Transcend the existing framework and create the medical science of the future
To realize the personalized medicine and preventive medicine of the future, it is necessary to overcome the existing fractionalized scientific fields and take on the big challenges for scientific innovation. In collaboration with other research institutes worldwide, IMS nurtures young scientists who will lead the original integrative research into the next generation.