Elucidation of the etiology of lifestyle diseases and search for molecular targets by genome and epigenome analyses
At IMCR, we investigate the physiological mechanisms in endocrinology and metabolism, as well as the pathogenesis of diseases resulting from the disorders in these mechanisms, such as diabetes, obesity, and atherosclerosis. In Japan, the number of people suffering from these diseases is increasing. For example, the number of diabetes patients has increased 38-fold in the past 50 years. Because genetic alterations could not have accumulated during such a short period, this increase is largely due to the changes in the lifestyle, such as intake of high-calorie foods and a sedentary life. However, studies have shown that environmental factors also affect gene expression through DNA methylation and histone acetylation. Such changes in gene expression without any changes in the underlying DNA sequence are referred to as epigenetics, and the compounds that have been added to the entire genome are collectively called the epigenome. After the draft of the human genome was released in 2000, research on epigenetics and epigenome has been actively carried out. In 2013, our institute started a 9-year project involving both genome and epigenome analyses—“Elucidation of the etiology of lifestyle diseases and search for molecular targets by genome and epigenome analyses”—in association with Akita University, Nagoya University, and other faculties of Gunma University. Through this project, we aim to uncover the pathogenesis of lifestyle diseases and to identify novel drug targets and disease markers.