Junko KANOH - Associate Professor, Institute for Protein Research
The focus of Associate Professor Junko KANOH's research is the terminal part of chromosomes, the telomere, which controls a cell's aging timing and is important to longevity, as well as subtelomeres. "A slight structural anomaly in subtelomeres can cause hereditary disorders such as multiple malformations and mental retardation. I'd like to elucidate this mechanism," she said with a passion.
The key to understanding this is "shugoshin," a protein in which Prof. Kanoh discovered a new function. The shugoshin protein in the centromere, the center of a chromosome, is known for controlling the timing of cell division. But Prof. Kanoh noticed that shugoshin, which should be working in the centromere, appears occasionally in the area of subtelomeres, and found that shugoshin maintained proper gene expression in subtelomeres as well as regulating replication timing. By furthering her research, "I want to not only deepen my own basic research, but I'd also like to contribute to the prevention and treatment of patients in a larger framework, including clinical care," she told us with a twinkle in her eye.
There is a lot that is still unknown about subtelomeres, and Prof. Kanoh thinks that "subtelomeres may contain secrets not just for congenital diseases, but even those for the evolution of humans." She continues, "It's said that DNA of humans and chimpanzees are 99% identical, but our subtelomeres are completely different from apes'. There is a possibility that humans became humans because of the differences in our subtelomeres." Fittingly, "Boss Zaru (Boss Monkey)" is enshrined at Prof. Kanoh's laboratory.
While she was a student, Prof. Kanoh excelled at tennis, and in recent years, she has become passionate about the violin, but of her many interests, she is particularly fond of figure skating. She's watched figure skating ever since she was a child, and she's currently interested in HANYU Yuzuru. Hanyu's practice behavior based on a long-term plan has resonated with Prof. Kanoh's attitude toward her research. "Research isn't a sprint, it's a marathon. There is pressure to keep running without stopping, but that in and of itself is enjoyable," said a powerful Prof. Kanoh.
Associate Professor Junko KANOH graduate from the Department of Biophysics and Biochemistry, Faculty of Science, The University of Tokyo in 1991. In 1996, she received her doctorate in Science from the Department of Biological Sciences, Graduate School of Science, The University of Tokyo. After serving as a researcher in the Institute of Medical Science, The University of Tokyo, a researcher at Scripps Research Institute (USA), an assistant at the Graduate School of Bioscience and Biotechnology, Tokyo Institute of Technology, and an assistant professor at the Graduate School of Biostudies, Kyoto University, she became a specially appointed assistant professor at the Institute for Protein Research, Osaka University, and an Associate Professor at the same institute in 2013 (Associate Professor KANOH leads the Laboratory of Nuclear Network). Her field of study is molecular biology and the elucidation of chromosomal control mechanisms in life-sustaining activity.