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Fumiyuki Kiuchi, Professor, Faculty of Pharmacy

To make use of natural resources for human health

At the research laboratory of natural medicines, we conduct “research of medicine extracted from nature”, which is one of the oldest research themes in pharmacy, from a variety of perspectives.

Prof. Fumiyuki Kiuchi and students

Today, most medicines are made from pure chemical compounds, but until about 200 years ago, “medicine” meant material extracted from nature. In the 19th century, people started to attempt to take out the “essence of medicine”, and combined with the development of synthetic organic chemistry, numerous pharmaceutical products such as morphine were developed. However, there are many more materials for new medicine still hidden in nature, and to find such material is a very attractive task. On the other hand, in Kampo medicine (traditional Japanese medicine), which is well established in Japan, drugs (Kampo prescription = combination of crude drugs) are made from crude drugs that are obtained in nature such as from animals and plants. Crude drugs are natural products therefore can be variable in quality, so in order to use them as reliable drugs, quality control is indispensable, and at the same time, an evidence (scientific proof) on how they are efficacious becomes necessary.

In our laboratory, we aim at “making use of natural resources for human health”, and are working on three research themes: the exploration of medicinal properties contained in natural medicines, the clarification of clinical efficacy of crude drugs on a scientific basis, and the synthesis and biological function of glycoconjugates found in parasites. Our research is based on chemical compounds, but we take all kinds of methods for our experiments. In this research field, there is a “tradition” to “use whatever possible”, and we move forward always trying new methods. Under the “basic principle” that “you can’t tell unless you try”, I want students to place importance on results obtained from experiments, to understand them in one’s own way to build a theory so that it leads to new discoveries. I also feel that from the Chinese character for “pharmacy”, it should be a “study to enjoy grasses (meaning nature)”. I hope I can enjoy working with all kinds of compounds found in nature through experiments and discussions with my students.

Student's Voice
Hisashi Shizuma, Fourth-year Student,
Faculty of Pharmacy, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences

Medicine found in nature

In this laboratory, our two main focuses of study are research on constituents of crude drugs and synthesis of glycoconjugates derived from natural resources. As for the research of crude drugs, we study the molecular structure of constituents of crude drugs and their biological activities. If we can find a biologically active substance through this research, we may be able to use it to develop medicines, and we will also be able to clarify how the crude drug is effective more specifically. As for the synthesis of glycoconjugates, we are mainly working on synthesis of glycolipids and glycoproteins found in parasites. This research aims at developing diagnostic products effective against infections caused by the parasites. In an easygoing atmosphere, each student works seriously on one’s own research theme while obtaining knowledge and techniques from the professor and senior students.

*This article appeared in the 2012 winter edition (No.273) of “Juku.”
*Position titles, etc., are those at the time of publishing.