The Institute of Agrobiological Sciences, NARO (NIAS) focuses on understanding the biological phenomena of agriculturally important plants, insects, microbes and animals to create innovative technologies, and eventually contribute to the solution of global issues such as food shortage due to rapid population growth and environmental problems due to climate change. Research activities are pursued in a 5-year cycle to intensify all efforts towards a common goal and to forge the way for new breakthroughs with direct impact to agricultural productivity.
Research and development for creating new industries and new demands using genetic engineering technologies
As an approach to obtain maximum benefits from agricultural organisms, genetic engineering technologies hold great potential. Our center is doing research and development to create new industries and new demands in the field of agricultural and medicinal industries by applying genetic engineering technologies to plants (rice), insects (silkworm and others) and animals (swine). In plants, for example, we are developing new rice varieties resistant to major diseases including blast. Moreover, we will include non-clinical and clinical research trials of rice-based edible vaccines for curing cedar pollinosis. In our research on insects, we are developing medicinal materials from silk protein and medicines for humans and animals using transgenic silkworm. Furthermore, in our animal research, we are developing transgenic pigs to produce immune-deficit pigs and animal models for human diseases.
Understanding of plant life for technology application
Crops are important for human diets and biomass energy. Food shortage in the near future is a serious concern, considering ongoing population growth and loss of potential cultivation areas in the world due to climatic instability and environmental destruction as a consequence of human activities. To achieve a stable food supply, it is essential to maintain and improve crop productivity even under changing and stressful environments. For this purpose, a systematic understanding of plant life and functions is necessary. The Division of Plant Sciences aims to elucidate mechanisms of how plants produce biomass and respond to environments and to understand the interactions between plants and microbes including pathogens and symbionts. Further, we will develop new technologies that lead to improved productivity of crops with high quality and safety in a sustainable way by understanding and utilizing diverse potentials of plants.
Studies on insects for integrated pest management
Insects live in almost all terrestrial and freshwater habitats and more than 800,000 species are currently known. Because they can adapt to various environments and have high reproductive potential, insects often cause serious damage to crops. The Division of Insect Sciences investigates insect hormones and pheromones, and interactions between pest insects and their host plants, predators and microbes to develop new insect growth regulators and basic technologies for integrated pest management.
Research to improve production and health of livestock animals
Animal products, which are nutritionally better balanced and abundant in essential amino acids, are important for human health. The Animal Science Division focuses on research on improving livestock production and health to deliver sufficient high-quality animal proteins to consumers at reasonable prices. In particular, we conduct the following research: 1) Development of a new usage of germ cells and pluripotent stem cells for both effective improvement and reproduction of livestock, 2) Mechanism by which livestock react to stressors such as light, temperature, and rearing environment, 3) Mechanism by which brain, ovary and uterus adjust the reproduction of livestock, 4) Cellular and molecular mechanisms of innate immune systems, and 5) Development of novel cell culture systems.