Functional Chemistry(Master’s Program)

Learning from Biomolecules and Creating Functional Substances

We are engaged in research and education with a focus on the measurement and analysis of the structures and functions of a wide variety of biomolecules concerned with the activities of living organisms; the control of substance functionality based on the findings of such measurements and analysis; the creation and application of functional substances and the development of leading analysis and measurement methods.

Educational Program

In this program, to raise the fundamental ability to create bio-functional substances and analyze the functions of new substances, we provide graduate-level education in the fields of biomolecular chemistry, analytical chemistry, molecular structural chemistry, structure and function of biological macromolecules, chemical engineering and more. In other words, based on undergraduate-level education in the fields of physical chemistry, analytical chemistry, organic chemistry, polymer chemistry, biochemistry and more, students come to understand complex properties and structures of proteins, nucleic acids, polysaccharides, and physiologically active substances, and develop the ability to take that understanding to the creation of new materials. Regarding spectroscopy and analytical chemistry, which are essential to analyzing the functionalities of such a wide variety of materials with a high degree of accuracy, students develop an understanding of fundamental principles and obtain fundamental measurement and analytical skills.

Our lectures are divided into the five categories of physics/analytical chemistry, polymer chemistry, organic chemistry, bio-related chemistry and applied chemistry. Added to these are practical research and practica, through which students come to understand scientific principles while obtaining skills and methods. Furthermore, we provide students with off-campus presentation opportunities to improve their judgement, presentation skills and other related abilities through practical experience.

Laboratory Information

Molecular Structural Chemistry Biophysical Chemistry
The major objective of our research is to interpret biological chemical reactions from a structural chemistry perspective using physicochemical methods. Research themes are 1) kinetic analysis of oxidation-reduction behavior and antioxidant reactions of biological molecules (peptides, nucleic acid-derived radicals, reactive oxygen radicals, vitamins, anticancer agents); and 2) precise structural determination and functional analysis of biological molecules (nucleic acid, proteins, peptides, naturally biologically active substances). Our research methods: After chemically synthesizing biological molecules or purifying biological molecules extracted from natural organisms, we identify the correlations between their functionalities and structures using various spectroscopic and electrochemical measurements, such as magnetic resonance (ESR and NMR). We also make theoretical investigations of structure-activity correlations using a combination of molecular force fields, molecular orbitals, and molecular dynamics calculations.

Research themes: Elucidation of structure and function of biofunctional molecules using magnetic resonance spectroscopy
Keywords:Magnetic Resonance / biofunctional molecules / Redox
Our primary focus is on determining the three-dimensional structure of proteins involved in infectious diseases, elucidating the mechanism of inhibition of enzymes by drugs, and structural biological analysis of functional 3D structure correlations of various proteins are important pillars of research. The outline of specific research themes is as follows. (1) 3D structure determination of pathogenic factor proteins (2) Elucidation of the molecular mechanism of toxin protein invasion into cells and expression of toxicity (3) Elucidation of enzyme reaction mechanism and analysis of inhibition mechanism (4) Structure determination of proteins by X-ray structural analysis using Synchrotron radiation such as SPring-8 (5) Determining the 3D structure of proteins by cryo-electron microscopy. Using these technologies, we aim to create drug discovery by structure-based drug design.

Research themes: Determination of 3D Structure of Pathogenic Factor Proteins by X-ray Structure Analysis
Keywords: Structural Biology / Toxin Proteins / Drug Design
Analytical Chemistry Chemical and Biochemical Engineering
Analytical chemistry aims to develop new methodologies for elucidation of natural phenomena important to chemistry, yet unaddressed until now. This discipline covers a wide range of areas.
We develop separation and analysis methods that can be widely utilized in the field of life science as well as, in global environmental and energy issues, and thereby discover new principles and laws of natural science. Specifically, we 1) develop new methods for separation and determination using soft interfaces between liquid and soft materials such as gels, emulsions and ionic liquids; 2) conduct electrochemical research on thermodynamics, kinetics and nonlinear phenomena involved in the membrane transport of electric charges (biomembranes, liquid membranes, polymer membranes, etc.); 3) analyze the accumulation mechanisms of ionic compounds —ionic drugs, penetration peptides, etc—into biomembranes and apply those to novel dose methods for drugs; and 4) develop practical electrochemical devices for ion-sensing.

Research themes: Development of new analytical methods based on charge transfer at interfaces, and elucidation of biomembrane functions
Keywords: Ion Distribution / Voltammetry / Chemiluminescence / Lipid Bilayers / Volumetric Measurement
Our laboratory develops core technologies related to medicine and bioprocesses based on the unit operation perspectives developed in biochemical and bioprocess engineering. More specifically, we develop a mass production process for useful materials using microbes, such as E. coli, lactic acid bacteria and yeasts, as a host. For example, we develop mass-production technology for lactic acid, an ingredient for xylitol and bioplastic, using waste resources such as corn cobs. We also develop mass production processes for low-molecular antibodies, which are being looked to for use in therapeutic and test drugs. In our development of an immunoassay method, a diagnostic technique using antibodies, we are seeking to establish a measurement technique that assesses minute amounts of specific antigen in blood and body fluids. Precise control of the immobilized density and orientation on a material’s surface enables a diagnosis to be made quicker, more easily and with higher sensitivity than before.

Research themes: Production of useful substances using biological functions and their application to medicine and the environment
Keywords: Biochemical Engineering, Culture Engineering, Biorefinery, Separation and Purification, Antibody Engineering
Rubber and Elastomer Science Biopolymer Chemistry
Rubbers and elastomers are polymers that serve as fundamentally important materials in our lives. These are essential soft materials for a wide variety of devices such as tires, seismic isolation rubbers and medical materials. In our laboratory, systematic research is conducted on the relationships among the synthesis, structure and properties of rubbers and elastomers. To serve as a world-leading research center, we focus on: 1) the science of natural rubber and its hybrid materials; 2) vulcanization and reinforcement of rubbers; 3) nanotechnology in rubber materials; and 4) development of high-performance and high-function rubber materials for sustainability science. We strive to make an impact on rubber science and technology for the benefit of the world.

Research themes: A Modern Approach to Rubber Science Research: Challenging the Mysteries of Vulcanization and Reinforcement
Keywords: Rubber / Vulcanization / Reinforcement / Functionalization / High Performance / Natural Rubber
Our research investigates new protein engineering and polymer chemistry combining biotechnology and applies it in the fields of pharmaceuticals, food technology and environmental engineering. We create functional nanofibers that control immunology and cell growth using technology combining genetic modification and peptide engineering. We also design biomolecules using cutting-edge biochemical analytical technology to develop therapeutic agents and functional foods. More specifically, our research focuses on the following three areas:
1) the search for and development of functional molecules that control neurodegenerative disease,
2) mechanisms for the formation of polypeptide nanofibers and application to medical engineering materials, and
3) the development of enzyme-compounded polymer matrices that decompose environmental gases.

Research themes: Development of novel biotechnologies through the fusion of protein engineering and polymer chemistry
Keywords: Protein Engineering / Cell Engineering / Molecular Chaperones / Enzymes / Egg White Protein
Bioregulation Chemistry Biofunctional Chemistry
Our laboratory uses the tools of chemistry, including organic chemistry, polymer chemistry, physiological chemistry, and biochemistry, in the study of the interactions and biological functions of nucleic acids and enzymes. We utilize artificially designed molecules, such as functional oligonucleotides with fluorescence dyes, Raman tags, and photo-reactive derivatives, to establish the principles of gene therapy for new biomedicines and gene technology for cancer diagnosis.

Research themes: Research for the analysis of biological phenomena and the development of molecules to treat diseases.
Keywords: Chemical Biology / Early Diagnosis of Diseases / Nucleic Acid Drugs / Nanomaterials / Self-assembly
From among a wide variety of functional biomolecules produced by organisms, our research identifies molecules useful for healthcare and agriculture, elucidates their structures and mechanisms, and applies them to practical uses. Using biochemical methods, we research: 1) the control of metabolic syndrome: We use animal models and cells to search for and identify natural substances which prevent metabolic syndrome, and study their mechanisms, 2) the control of infections: We isolate and identify lytic bacteriophage and natural antimicrobial substances to control infectious diseases, mainly in agriculture and stock farming, 3) the elucidation of sick building syndrome: We analyze changes in the body caused by chemicals using Drosophila, to study its pathogenic mechanisms.

Research themes: Functional analysis and utilization of functional biomolecules that contribute to health promotion
Keywords: Prevention and treatment / Metabolic syndrome / Infectious diseases / Naturally occurring bioactive molecules
Center for Environmental Science
Environmental Measurement Technology
Many issues potentially threaten the survival of humankind, including global-level environmental problems such as climate change, ozone layer depletion, acid rain, water, air and soil contamination, large-scale waste discharge and resource depletion. We develop technologies for measuring trace pollutants in the environment and use these developments to analyze environmental dynamics and assess environmental impacts with an eye to identifying and addressing environmental issues. Our research focuses on:
1) Identifying causes of increases in ROS (refractory organic substances) in “closed water environments” such as Lake Biwa;
2) Identifying the cycles of matter and the impacts of low oxygenation of bottom sediments in Lake Biwa;
3) Investigating the dynamics and environmental impacts of acid depositions and hazardous substances in the atmosphere—cross-border pollutants from mainland China, such as yellow sand and PM2.5; and
4) Studying environmental safety issues, such as treatment methods for difficult-to-treat wastes, chemical substance management and working-environment measurement.

Research themes: Functional analysis of humus-like substances in the long-range transport of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in atmospheric aerosols
Investigation of Chemical characteristics of humic substances in Lake Biwa sediment and material cycle among lake sediments
Keywords: Environmental dynamic analysis / Environmental impact assessment / Humic substances / Material cycle / Thermal decomposition GC/MS

Academic Programs