History and Mission of IMCR
Research at the Institute for Molecular and Cellular Regulation (IMCR) focuses on the endocrine and metabolic systems and aims at elucidating the molecular mechanisms responsible for homeostasis of the living body using various experimental models, from cell lines to animal models. We also promote the study of diseases that are caused by defects in the endocrine and metabolic systems, particularly lifestyle-related diseases, such as diabetes, dyslipidemia, obesity, and cancer. As the only fundamental medical research institute on the endocrine and metabolic systems in Japan, our institute has been highly esteemed at home and abroad. From 2013, we established a lifestyle disease analysis center for the purpose of “Elucidation of the etiology of lifestyle diseases and search for molecular targets by genome and epigenome analyses” and aim to further develop as an international research and education base.
Our Institute was formed in 1994 from the Institute of Endocrinology, which was originally established in 1963. When the Institute of Endocrinology was established, there were many patients who suffered from thyroid diseases because of insufficient seaweed intake in Gunma Prefecture. At that time, our institute had conducted research focusing on the role of thyroid hormones and related diseases and had revealed the mechanisms of thyroid hormone production and its physiological roles. Moreover, we elucidated the role of a new hormone, motilin, that is secreted from the small intestine. Subsequently, due to remarkable developments in life sciences, our institute was reformed into the Institute for Molecular and Cellular Regulation (IMCR) in 1994, in order to understand not only the so-called “hormone research”, but also metabolic and endocrine mechanisms in the living body from a broader viewpoint. Along with this reorganization, we have begun research on other bioactive substances, such as growth factors, cytokines, and lipid mediators, as well as typical hormones. Furthermore, we have made efforts to investigate pathological conditions and pathogenesis of lifestyle-related diseases, such as diabetes, obesity, cancer, and chronic inflammation. As a result, our institute was selected as the center of the 21st Century COE Program from 2002 to 2006, and thereafter as the center of the Global COE Program from 2007 to 2011. Additionally, since our institute was nominated as a “Joint/Usage Research Program for Endocrine/Metabolism” center in 2009, we are promoting research aimed at comprehensive elucidation of molecular mechanisms that regulate endocrine and metabolic systems throughout the body, through active collaboration with domestic and foreign researchers and distribution of our various research resources to them.
With the remarkable progress of life sciences, our institute is experiencing a change towards a new era. At present, in addition to research on endocrine hormones, such as insulin and glucagon, we are also conducting research on novel physiological functions of adipocytes, which have drawn attention recently, and development of new metabolic control technology using genome editing. Additionally, our institute has initiated the study of the relationship between brain function and food preference and food intake, as well as the relationship between lifestyle-related diseases and brain diseases. We are also working on the elucidation of general molecular mechanisms that maintain homeostasis using various model organisms. Thus, we would like to usher in a new era of endocrinology and metabolism research by organically linking the two pillars of “traditional endocrine and metabolic research” and “leading basic medical research” to meet the needs of society. We would like to contribute to the research community, as well as focus on fostering excellent young scientists as a joint research center. We appreciate your continued support and cooperation for our research.