Chaperone therapy is a newly developed molecular therapeutic approach to protein misfolding diseases. Among them we found unstable mutant enzyme proteins in a few lysosomal diseases, resulting in rapid intracellular degradation and loss of function. Active-site binding low molecular competitive inhibitors (chemical chaperones) paradoxically stabilized and enhanced the enzyme activity in somatic cells by correction of the misfolding of enzyme protein. They reached the brain through the blood-brain barrier after oral administration, and corrected pathophysiology of the disease. In addition to these inhibitory chaperones, non-competitive chaperones without inhibitory bioactivity are being developed. Furthermore molecular chaperone therapy utilizing the heat shock protein and other chaperone proteins induced by small molecules has been experimentally tried to handle abnormally accumulated proteins as a new approach particularly to neurodegenerative diseases. These three types of chaperones are promising candidates for various types of diseases, genetic or non-genetic, and neurological or non-neurological, in addition to lysosomal diseases.
The adrenal cortex of mammals consists of three concentric zones, i.e., the zona glomerulosa (zG), the zona fasciculata (zF), and the zona reticularis (zR), which secrete mineralocorticoids, glucocorticoids, and adrenal androgens, respectively. In 1994, we identified immunohistochemically a new zone between zG and zF of the rat adrenal gland. The zone appeared to be devoid of any significant endocrine functions specific to adrenocortical zones, therefore, we designated the zone as “undifferentiated cell zone (zU)”. Further, BrdU (5-bromo-2′-deoxyuridine)-incorporating cells (cells in S-phase) were concentrated at the outer region and the inner region of zU, and these cells proliferated and migrated bidirectionally: toward zG centrifugally and toward zF centripetally. We proposed that cells in and around zU are stem/progenitor cells of the rat adrenal cortex, maintaining functional zonation of the adrenal cortex. The view is consistent with observations reported recently that Sonic hedgehog (Shh), an important factor in embryonic development and adult stem cell maintenance, exists in zU of the rat adrenal gland and the Shh-containing cells seem to migrate bidirectionally.
Assisted reproductive technology (ART) such as in vitro fertilization (IVF) and embryo transfer (ET) has been essential in the treatment of infertility. The world’s first IVF-ET baby was born in 1978 based on the technique developed by Dr. Robert Edwards and Dr. Patrick Steptoe. In Japan, the first IVF-ET birth was reported in 1983 by Prof. Masakuni Suzuki at Tohoku University School of Medicine.
IVF-ET is a procedure used to achieve pregnancy that consists of extracting oocytes from an infertile woman, fertilizing them in vitro, and transferring fertilized eggs into the patient’s uterine cavity (Fig. 1). Since the first report of successful IVF-ET, numerous techniques related to ART, such as cryopreservation of oocytes and embryos, gamete intrafallopian transfer (GIFT), and microinsemination, have been developed and refined (Table 1).
Herein we describe the history of basic research in IVF-ET that led to human applications, how the birth of the first IVF-ET baby was achieved in Japan, the current status of ART in Japan, issues related to ART, and future prospects for ART.