It is the second oldest Japanese university, one of the highest ranked universities in Asia and one of Japan’s National Seven Universities. One of Asia’s leading research-oriented institutions, Kyoto University is famed for producing world-class researchers, including eight Nobel Prize laureates, two Fields medalists and one Gauss Prize.
The university has been consistently ranked the second best institute in Japan since 2008 in various independent university ranking schemes.
Kyoto University research articles from Innovation Toronto
- Regenerative Medicine: Regrowing functional joints in frogs – January 18, 2016
- Technology To Advance Stem Cell Therapeutics – November 16, 2014
- A simple and versatile way to build three-dimensional materials of the future – October 18, 2014
- To clean air and beyond: Catching greenhouse gases with advanced membranes – September 7, 2014
- Keeping the lights on | cascading power outages
- Scientists Create Sperm Bank for Endangered Animals
- New Breakthrough Prize Awards Millions to Life Scientists
- Duke researchers engineer cartilage from pluripotent stem cells
- Faster, Cheaper Gas and Liquid Separation Using Custom Designed and Built Mesoscopic Structures
- Fast, Cheap, and Accurate: Detecting CO2 With a Fluorescent Twist
- Computer-Brain Interfaces Making Big Leaps
- Matrix-style instant learning could be one step closer
- Plan B for Energy: 8 Revolutionary Energy Sources
Solar cells convert light into electricity. While the sun is one source of light, the burning of natural resources like oil and natural gas can also be harnessed.
However, solar cells do not convert all light to power equally, which has inspired a joint industry-academia effort to develop a potentially game-changing solution.
“Current solar cells are not good at converting visible light to electrical power. The best efficiency is only around 20%,” explains Kyoto University’s Takashi Asano, who uses optical technologies to improve energy production.
Higher temperatures emit light at shorter wavelengths, which is why the flame of a gas burner will shift from red to blue as the heat increases. The higher heat offers more energy, making short wavelengths an important target in the design of solar cells.
“The problem,” continues Asano, “is that heat dissipates light of all wavelengths, but a solar cell will only work in a narrow range.
“To solve this, we built a new nano-sized semiconductor that narrows the wavelength bandwidth to concentrate the energy.”
Previously, Asano and colleagues of the Susumu Noda lab had taken a different approach. “Our first device worked at high wavelengths, but to narrow output for visible light required a new strategy, which is why we shifted to intrinsic silicon in this current collaboration with Osaka Gas,” says Asano.
To emit visible wavelengths, a temperature of 1000?C was needed, but conveniently silicon has a melting temperature of over 1400?C. The scientists etched silicon plates to have a large number of identical and equidistantly-spaced rods, the height, radii, and spacing of which was optimized for the target bandwidth.
According to Asano, “the cylinders determined the emissivity,” describing the wavelengths emitted by the heated device.
Using this material, the team has shown in Science Advances that their nanoscale semiconductor raises the energy conversion rate of solar cells to at least 40%.
“Our technology has two important benefits,” adds lab head Noda. “First is energy efficiency: we can convert heat into electricity much more efficiently than before. Secondly is design. We can now create much smaller and more robust transducers, which will be beneficial in a wide range of applications.”
Learn more: A big nano boost for solar cells
Researchers at the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology (CDB) have successfully transplanted retinal pigment cells derived from stem cells of one monkey into the eyes of other monkeys without rejection and without the need for immunosuppressant drugs. Published in Stem Cell Reports, the study shows that this procedure is possible as long as a set of cells called the MHC are genetically matched between the host monkey and the new retinal cells.
A realistic hope of modern medicine is to replace damaged tissue with healthy cells grown in the lab. Currently, adult cells can be reprogrammed into stem cells, and then re-differentiated and grown into desired cell types. The researchers at RIKEN CDB led by Masayo Takahashi have already begun a clinical transplant trial in people with age-related macular degeneration. The team grew retinal pigment cells from induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) and transplanted them into the damaged retina of a human participant. In order to avoid tissue rejection, they used autologous iPSCs—iPSCs that were created from the recipient’s own skin cells.
While this method is sound, producing autologous iPSCs is costly. Additionally, because the cells must grow at the same rate as they do during normal development, a person would have to wait more than a year before a transplant could be performed.
Notes lead author Sunao Sugita, “In order to make iPSC transplantation a practical reality, the current goal is to create banks of iPSC-derived tissues that can be transplanted into anyone as they are needed. However, immune responses and tissue rejection are big issues to overcome when transplanting tissue derived from other individuals.”
The new study tested a technique called MHC matching as a way to overcome this issue. Major histocompatibility complexes (MHCs) are a sets of cell-surface proteins found in all cells that function in the immune system. In humans, MHCs are also called human leukocyte antigens (HLAs). There are many genetic variations of MHCs, and after transplantation, if the MHCs of the transplanted cells are not recognized by the T cells of the host immune system, there is an immune response and the tissue is rejected.
To test whether MHC matching is a viable method, the team used retinal pigment cells that were grown from monkey iPSCs in the iPS cell bank at the Center for iPS Cell Research and Application, Kyoto University. They transplanted the cells into the subretinal space in monkeys with either genetically matched or non-matched MHCs.
The researchers found that these transplanted cells survived without rejection for at least 6 months in MHC-matched monkeys, without using any of the usually necessary immunosuppressant drugs. In contrast, rejection was relatively quick in the MHC-mismatched monkeys. Immunohistochemical examination showed that infiltration by inflammatory cells was only present in the transplanted grafts of MHC-mismatched monkeys. In vitro, the team saw that T cells failed to respond to the iPSC-derived retinal pigment cells if they were from an MHC-matched monkey.
In a separate study published in the same issue of Stem Cell Reports, the researchers saw similar results when they repeated this last experiment with human T cells and HLA-matched or unmatched retinal pigment cells grown from IPSCs.
Now that we have established the lack of immune response in monkeys and in human cells in vitro,” explains Sugita, “using the iPS cell bank appears to be a viable solution, at least in the case of retinal pigment epithelial cell transplantation.”
“In the next clinical trial,” continues Sugita, “we plan to use allogeneic iPS-retinal pigment epithelial cells from HLA homozygote donors. The clinical data after the transplantation will allow us to see if the iPS cell bank is truly useful or not. If so, I think this type of transplantation can become standard treatment within 5 years.”
Scientists observe artificial nanofibers self-sorting into organized structures
The Greek goddess Psyche borrowed help from ants to sort a room full of different grains. Cells, on the other hand, do something similar without Olympian assistance, as they organize molecules into robust, functional fibers. Now scientists are able to see self-sorting phenomena happen in real time with artificial molecules.
The achievement, reported in Nature Chemistry, elucidates how two different types of nanofibers sort themselves into organized structures under artificial conditions.
“Basic cellular structures, such as actin filaments, come into being through the autonomous self-sorting of individual molecules, even though a tremendous variety of proteins and small molecules are present inside the cell,” says lead author Hajime Shigemitsu, a researcher in Itaru Hamachi’s lab at Kyoto University.
“Imagine a box filled with an assortment of building blocks — it’s as if the same type of blocks started sorting themselves into neat bundles all on their own. In living cells, such phenomena always happen, enabling accurate self-assembling of proteins, which is essential for cell functions.”
“If we are able to control self-sorting with artificial molecules, we can work toward developing intelligent, next-generation biomimics that possess the flexibility and diversity of functions that exist in a living cell.”