Known worldwide as a leading university in Japan with particular strengths in engineering and science (especially chemistry) not to mention in biomed, Tohoku University is home not only to its superb engineering institutions but also its affiliate research institutes. The entities range from those studying advanced materials and fluid mechanics - the latter involving the micro/nano varieties as well - to units focused on metallurgy and robotics, again covering the micron and nanometer size regions.
Internationally, there are moves to design matter at all size levels also. The trend is exemplified by use of CRISPR-Cas, a technique born in Japan, for genomes while design efforts related to atomic structures are ongoing around the globe. Tohoku University Engineering Faculty members, in addition to those we highlighted in this issue, are actively scrutinizing the minute frontiers of research too. Said pursuits promise to bring forth paradigm shifts in terms of life science and nanotech.
The last big leap related to such research areas took place with the discovery in 1982 of the genzyme. The decades that followed saw marked advances in the field of molecular biology, according to an observation made by engineer-writer Kouichi Ishii. In his “biobusiness handbook” which was published by Oriental Economist soon after Dolly the sheep's cloning, it was portended that engineering at genetic levels and beyond would become prevalent.
Today, fundamental technologies to fabricate integrated biodevices including biologically-benign microfabrication and characterization for biomaterials in nanometer domains, along with movement technology for solutions and biomaterials, have come to the fore. Currently, on-chip genetic engineering systems to realize simple genetic manipulation on a single chip is undergoing development. This chip will enable rapid and comprehensive analysis of gene and protein functions.
It may even be that “Tangible Bits” efforts being spearheaded by the Japanese MIT Media Lab Associate Director will lead to supersmall manipulations via hands-on simulation becoming realized. Indeed in the very near future my late collaborator Kouichi's predictions could come to pass, judged from the current state of affairs. Hopefully, this journalist would be fortunate enough to witness more progress, including those emanating from Aobayama campus, related thereto in the dozens of years to come.
S. "Tex" POMEROY