How do you observe the differences in the water that circulates within the human body? Water is H2O―a molecule that contains one oxygen and two hydrogen atoms―and a water molecule exhibits particular vibrations of the covalent bond between the hydrogen and oxygen atoms in a water molecule. Changes to the pattern of hydrogen-bonding among water molecules generate changes in the vibrations, which we can measure using infrared spectroscopy, which in this case refers to the water-light interaction at different frequencies of the electromagnetic spectrum.
Additionally, this method suddenly opens up access to an entire series of wavelengths along the near-infrared spectrum. And hopefully, if we continue to accumulate this data, we should be able to conduct new analyses on all kinds of information long after measurement.
“In current MRI examinations, we can diagnose cancers and inflammations from the spin of hydrogen atoms of water inside the body. The MRI detects signals that are emitted from the ‘water’ in cancer lesions. These signals are distinguishable from healthy tissue and demonstrate exactly what we are trying to prove. However, we still do not know whether these discrepancies are the cause or the result of disease. I am currently making progress in research that aims to understand the basic biological features of water by interpreting its behaviors in minute detail.”
Prof. Yasui puts particular emphasis on being able to “see” dynamics of the water within the body.
His team went so far as to join forces with a corporation to make a microscope that could see water. It works by taking a microscopic look at the water as it passes through cells in the body. 3×109 water molecules flow through single aquaporin every second. And 300,000 aquaporins exist in every red blood cell. This indicates that it is vital for water to circulate dynamically throughout the body, but using this microscope Prof. Yasui is able to measure water at its natural speed as it moves through living organisms.
Moreover, recent technological innovations have exponentially shortened the times needed to process and calculate findings, which has allowed researchers to recreate models of the water’s movement using computer graphics.
“When I started my research ten years ago, it could take up to three months to calculate my findings. Now with supercomputers, it only takes three days. We can also now analyze phenomena that take more time. I think that using computer graphics to visually convey our message makes the information much more easily accessible for all types of people,” Prof. Yasui says.