Briefly, tell us about your background and career up to this point?
I was born in a rural area in Gunma Prefecture, Japan where there is a vast rice-growing region. Until my grandfather's generation, my family were rice farmers, and my retired parents still grow rice now. I thought that perhaps someday, I would be a rice farmer too. When I was a child, I used to play in the rice paddies and was interested in small animals, reptiles and insects. We had chickens and peacocks that were allowed to roam freely in the garden of my childhood home. My mother used to scream a lot because I often caught snakes and lizards. A typical story, I became interested in biology as a result.
Around the time when I was in high school, genetic modification technology was becoming a hot topic, and I thought that this would be the technology of the future. I began studying it at Tokyo University of Science. The laboratory where I started my PhD, mainly using genetically modified cell culture models, was a very active laboratory. To maintain cells, I sometimes used 5L of cell culture medium per day. As you can imagine, the salesperson from the medium company was very kind to me. After finishing my PhD, I became interested in research using animal models to study heart disease and started using zebrafish, an excellent model in genetics and live imaging. I learned that Didier Stainier at the Max Planck Institute had done interesting work in cardiac research using zebrafish, so I decided to move to Germany with my wife and young three daughters to join his lab. My family have been in Germany for a while and thus my daughters became mostly German now. A few years ago, a french bulldog daughter joined our family. She is now the daughter who takes me most seriously.
In the last few years, to test my previous findings in zebrafish and culture cells, I have been using the mammalian model. Now, I've been thinking that my next step might be to start researching using human tissues. In 2022, I moved to the School of Cardiovascular and Metabolic Medicine & Sciences at King’s. My School provides a great environment to further extend my research project. I am excited about the prospect of doing more interesting things here.
What is a typical day like for you?
I try to experiment with something new, even if it's just a little bit. Especially in science. I also exercise every day as much as possible.
What do you think people in the School would find most surprising about you?
When I was a university student, I was a ski school instructor in the winter. If you saw me in the Alps, you wouldn't recognise me.
What do you do with your time outside academia/work?
Walking with/without my dog, jogging, reading and cooking.
Who inspires you most and why?
Immortalised cell lines - They never stop growing! with fresh medium and space.
Pluripotent stem cells - They can become anything.
Zebrafish - They naturally regenerate the damaged heart and neurons.
Favourite London restaurant:
Kanada-Ya: Japanese Ramen Restaurant
I have learned many life lessons from Manga.
- BLACKJACK by Osamu Tezuka
- MASTER KEATON by Naoki Urasawa
- HUNTER×HUNTER and Level E by Yoshihiro Togashi
- SLAM DUNK by Inoue Takehiko
Espresso or Café Latte
One thing you could not go a day without: