Mar./2012
(STRATEGIC PROPOSALS)
Integrative Elucidation of "Cellular Communities" for Disease Control/CRDS-FY2011-SP-05
Executive Summary

The strategic program “Integrative Elucidation of Cell Communities for Disease Control” is a research proposal to clarify disease mechanisms with an integrative approach to elucidate the formation mechanisms of “cell communities” that influence the status of biological tissues. In this proposal, the term“ cell communities” is defined as one of the variable cell populations, responding to stimuli from changes of intracellular and extracellular conditions including cell-cell interactions.

As many as 200 types of cells constitute an organism, and highly diverse biological phenomena occur through the interactions among these cells. This means that complex interactions among a variety of subpopulations of cells may contribute to maintain the community of cells as a whole. By responding to changes in surrounding environments, such“ sociality” of cells would be modified to maintain or disrupt organism homeostasis. In particular, a recent study has shown that healthy cells, which initially appear to be unrelated to a disease, can actually form an interdependent relationship with malignant cells and influence the formation and maintenance of the“ cell communities” in disease states (see the column in chapter 1). One can expect that further elucidation of the formation mechanism of communities interwoven with a wide variety of cells would contribute with higher efficiency to the early detection and treatment of disease. There have been technical problems to investigate and reconstruct the formation mechanisms of the “cell communities” in disease states. However, new technologies to overcome these problems have emerged in recent years. By rapid development of emerging technologies, as well as the integration of findings in the specialized fields of basic research for detailed understanding of life, one can aim to elucidate the “cell communities” by effectively integrating these technologies and detailed understandings. A full understanding of the “cell communities” may enhance comprehension of the mechanisms by which diseases appear and advance in organisms. It may also lead to the improvement of medical cares, the development of science and technologies, and the establishment of industrial competitiveness for Japan.

This proposal promotes research activities that will further clarify disease mechanisms. We aim to engage basic medical technologies generated by research on the“cell communities” into practical use.

(1) Research for understanding the “cell communities” in disease states:
Develop analytical technology for elucidating the structure and functionality of the “cell communities.”
Analyze disease mechanisms triggered by changes in the state of the “cell communities.”

(2) Research for the reproduction of the “cell communities” that occur in disease states:
Develop technologies that cultivate reproductions of the “cell communities” with disease properties.
Develop animal models that reproduce the “cell communities” with disease properties.

As a result of the advancement of above-mentioned research, one may be able to expect the development of prevention and treatment technologies with much higher efficiency, in addition to the better elucidation of disease mechanisms.
To promote this proposal, it is strongly encouraged to form a highly collaborative research system (described below) to elucidate the mechanisms underlying individual disease through the elucidation of the “cell communities.”

“Coordination of different research fields” teams: investigators from the diverse and specialized fields of life science research share the fundamental knowledge.
“Fundamental-and-clinical medicine coordination” teams: share knowledge regarding the clinical pathology of disease and corresponding knowledge in basic research.
“Medical-and-engineering-field coordination” teams: researchers in medical and engineering fields collaborate to develop technology by matching needs and seeds in both research fields.

These highly collaborative research will accelerate the development of basic technologies that serves as a platform for the integrative elucidation of the “cell communities.” Depending on the status of progress in each team, feasibility studies and pre-clinical trials may start under academic-industrial partnerships with pharmaceutical companies and/or medical device manufacturers, based on the basic technologies from the individual teams. At the same time, the following research infrastructures necessary to propel research on the “cell communities” will have to be established.

Establishment of an institute for integrating knowledge on the “cell communities” from various research fields in medicine, science, and technology to strengthen the foundations of research.
Trainning human resources with a long-term perspective.
Outfitting libraries and databases for human specimen that can be accessible for both academic and industrial researchers.

In addition to developments in science and technology through cooperation across the fields of life sciences, medicine, and engineering, this proposal will empower industrial competitiveness of Japan by solving unmet medical needs, reducing medical expense, and creating new medical supplies and diagnostic systems.