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Private University Research Branding Project: Efforts by Azabu University
A project planned by Azabu University was selected for the Private University Research Branding Project, one of the MEXT 2016 Research Grant Projects. As a research institution, we are truly honored and inspired to have been chosen after a strict examination of 40 schools with a selection rate of roughly 20%.
As the name implies, this project is an effort to restructure each university’s research achievements to emphasize that particular university’s strengths and highlight the distinctiveness of its research.
The goal of the project proposed by our university is to scientifically elucidate “Human-Animal Symbiotic Systems” as a step toward realizing a healthy human society. This project is rooted in “Planetwide Symbiotic Systems: Moving Toward Symbiosis Between Humans, Animals, and the Environment,” an educational research concept advanced by this university. The goals of this research are achievable through collaboration between this university’s departments of Veterinary Medicine and Life and Environmental Science, which are capable of scientifically studying animal and human health and the environment. With this university-wide research system as a base, “the science of human-animal symbiosis” is a highly brandable challenge feasible for the first time in the world only at this university. I firmly believe that this effort will become a highlight of this university’s research in the future.
The Azabu University project “Developing a Science of Human-Animal Symbiosis to Realize a Healthy Human Society” was chosen for the MEXT Private University Research Branding Project.
In this project, we are aiming to establish a new academic discipline that scientifically investigates human-animal symbiosis and contributes to a healthy human society by providing information about the structure of said symbiosis. In the process of evolution, humans have long walked together with animals, in the beginning hunting them as prey, and more recently domesticating wild animals and using them as a food source. In the modern era, we have developed a close societal relationship with companion animals, and it has been found that life with animals benefits humans. For example, living with dogs has been reported to be beneficial for depression in war veterans and others, the care of children with autism, pain control, and digestive disorders. Thus, living with animals has been extremely advantageous for humans. Nonetheless, looking at modern society, we can see that the forms of human-animal symbiosis spanning more than 200,000 years have changed greatly. It is hoped that revising our understanding of that fundamental human-animal symbiosis will reveal a path to a new form of interdependence that will enable us to reach the inherent, rich life that humans and animals have cultivated. We focus on three points in our understanding of human-animal symbiosis: the cognitive symbiotic relationship, namely, why symbiosis is valid, the relationship between human health and animal-derived microbial flora due to symbiosis, and genetic transitions triggered by human-animal symbiosis. Our aim is to apply the methods of molecular biology to reveal these mechanisms of human-animal symbiosis and thereby create a new science of our symbiosis with animals to help achieve a healthy human society.
1. Cognitive interaction analysis of humans and animals: We will elucidate the exceptional cognitive interaction features possessed by animals that make symbiosis with humans possible. Furthermore, we will reveal the benefits of a welfare perspective and how we interact with animals.
2. Human and animal microbe cross-talk: We seek to identify the microbes contributing to health in symbiosis with animals and illuminate their mechanisms. For example, we will determine the bacterial flora involved in the human immune system and central nervous development.
3. Identification of human-animal coevolutionary genes: We will determine the genetic mutations of diseases that coevolved in humans and animals, as represented by dogs. In particular, we will focus on making advances in the identification and functional analysis of genes involved in skin diseases, metabolic disorders, and cancers reported to have evolved in parallel with humans, as well as the identification of the genes involved in domestication.
By carrying out this project, our final goal is to develop a concept of human-animal symbiosis so as ultimately to contribute to the growth of a healthy and sustainable human society. A new Azabu University is coming soon!