Research Institute for Bioresources and Biotechnology
The safety and functionality of food is currently in the limelight.
In the Laboratory for Applied Microbiology, we explore the possibilities of microorganisms – those tiny beings that have such a deep involvement in our lives in a range of areas such as the field of food. Our research focuses on making the most of microbial biotechnology to develop functional foods with health and food safety in mind, as well as the establishment of food safety management technologies.
Since before Christ, humans have made bread, cheese, wine and beer by utilizing microorganisms. And in Japan, people have used microorganisms in a range of foods such as miso paste and soy sauce, sake and natto (fermented soybeans). The Laboratory for Applied Microbiology utilizes those familiar microorganisms in the field of food as well as in the creation of ingredients and systems to help in a range of other fields. One of these areas is research into the effective use of plant biomass. Cellulose, which is a component of plant cells, is broken down by an enzyme called cellulase, forming glucose. It is microorganisms that produce this cellulase, and we are exploring possible applications. With this research, if a system can be established to make glucose from rice straw or old paper, it could be used as an energy source, leading to a departure from the current production systems that are dependent on fossil fuels. In addition, we are also working on research to produce food flavors and fragrances used in our daily lives through using microbial enzymes.
There are a range of other uses for microorganisms thought to be possible, and we have researchers working to utilize microbial enzymes to raise the productivity of amino acids used in Parkinson’s disease drugs. Our laboratory will continue to investigate the fantastic potential of microorganisms.