In July 2019, we welcome one researcher at the Institute.
Yeon Ju LEE
Yeon Ju Lee’s research interests lie at the intersections of comparative politics, political economy, and East Asian politics. Specifically, she is interested in elucidating the conditions under which economic inequality becomes politically salient and the mechanisms of how inequality and development affect political attitudes and behavior and democratic transition, consolidation, and dysfunction. She utilizes mixed methods, including lab and field experiments, primary surveys, interviews, ethnography, and comparative historical analysis based on in-depth qualitative fieldwork. Lee holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Chicago, an M.P.P. from Harvard Kennedy School, and a B.A. in Political Science and International Relations from Korea University. Before joining WIAS, she was a postdoctoral fellow at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University.
Assistant Professor Takeshi Maruyama was selected by the Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development (AMED) for PRIME, a project to support advanced R&D for medical innovation, in September 2019. In this article, he describes the latest research in this R&D project on precancerous cell removal and restoration by spatiotemporal sensing of abnormalities.
Expression of precancerous cells and their recognition by epithelial cells
Assistant Professor Takeshi MARUYAMA
Although the gastrointestinal tract would appear to be a closed internal system, it is actually exposed to all sorts of bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms from outside the body, in addition to food that is ingested. Minor glitches, abnormalities, and mutations are known to arise frequently because the esophagus, stomach, intestines, and other internal organs are exposed to a variety of external stressors from outside our bodies. The surface of the intestinal tract is covered by a thin layer of cells called epithelial cells. This layer of cells is on the front line of external contact, having a very high level of exposure to substances from outside the body. The accumulation of glitches and abnormalities in the epithelial cell layer can result in diseases, including cancer. Cancer is a well-known disease, and as we are all aware, it is difficult to treat and no perfect treatment for cancer has yet been established. We are conducting research to determine whether cancer can be prevented by removing cells at the precancerous stage, when they show some abnormalities but have not yet become malignant.
Recent research has found the phenomenon of cell competition: When a precancerous mutation occurs in the epithelial cell layer, the precancerous cells are recognized and actively eliminated by the other normal epithelial cells surrounding the precancerous cells. The cell competition phenomenon was first discovered in research on fruit flies, but recent research has determined that precancerous cells are eliminated by the epithelial layer in mammals as well, including dog cells and mice (Hogan et al., Nature Cell Biology, 2009). However, precancerous cells are indistinguishable from normal cells in appearance, unlike cancer cells. We do not know how the precancerous cells are recognized by the surrounding normal epithelial cells. At the Takeshi Maruyama laboratory, we are conducting research on antigen presentation, a signal by which an abnormal cell indicates its own abnormality at the cell surface.
Abnormalities within a cell are ordinarily not visible from outside the cell, but a cell containing abnormalities sends signals to the outside of the cell in the form of antigen presentation. Antigen presentation is like an expression by the cell. Previously, it was believed that only immune cells, which specialize in recognizing cells’ expressions, were capable of recognizing the subtle changes that occur in the expression of an abnormal cell. However, we have now learned that epithelial cells, which are not immune cells, also have a way to recognize a change in antigen presentation. This is an important discovery, challenging the previous belief that only immune cells were able to recognize and attack abnormal cells. The purpose of the selected research project is to obtain a detailed understanding of the mechanism by which changes in antigen presentation are recognized. (Fig. 1)
~Prospects for further expansion of future research~
Cells are known to show a variety of changes in expression, just as people show a variety of facial expressions. Changes in antigen presentation at the cell surface can indicate various types of changes, including abnormalities other than cancer, as well as additional factors such as the degree of abnormality, for example. This involves highly complex functions, and we hope to develop a comprehensive understanding of the mechanism for recognition of changes in antigen presentation, which is likened to changes in the expression of a cell. When we understand that mechanism in detail, we will also have a better understanding of how abnormal cells are attacked after they have been recognized as abnormal. This could help us find ways to maximize attacks on abnormal cells, and we hope that this will also contribute to medical care for disease prevention. These changes in cell expression due to abnormalities are also found in other diseases such as bacterial infection, in addition to cancer. Therefore, our research may be applicable to a broader range of diseases, with the potential to help establish new treatments for a variety of diseases in the future.
UBIAS Topic of the Year 2019 Event “Migrations: Movement of People, Ideas, and Goods” at Waseda Institute for Advanced Study (October 16th, 17th)
Assistant Professor Pascal LOTTAZ
On October 16 and 17, 2019, the Waseda Institute for Advanced Study (WIAS) and the Institute for Advanced Research at Nagoya University (IAR) successfully hosted a UBIAS topic of the year event at Waseda University in Japan. I participated in the event as one of the discussants of the Roundtable on the Day 2, and will briefly report the event as a whole.
The UBIAS network is a worldwide collaboration of Institutes for Advanced Study of which, in Japan, only Waseda University and Nagoya University are participating members. In recent years, closer collaboration between both institutes has given rise to a series of annual conferences that have brought together researchers from around the world.
This year the conference on “Migration” was organized by WIAS professors Tina Shrestha and Alex Mallett. Under their guidance, a fascinating two-day event took place in Waseda’s Okuma Tower. It was kicked-off by an engaging keynote lecture delivered by Professor Gracia Liu-Farrer of the Graduate School of Asia-Pacific Studies, Waseda University, on “Immigrant Japan and a New Era of International Migration.”
Over the two days of the workshop, the participants covered an astoundingly broad spectrum of research in the humanities and social sciences. The goal of the conference was not to deliver definitive answers to current issues but to explore the depth of the topic. The event truly achieved this, as the presenters connected migration docents of interconnected subfields, as Egyptologists, medievalists, anthropologists, sociologists, and International Relations experts discussed various facets of migration over the centuries. (See more about the presentation here.)
The presenters did not shy away from debating even controversial topics such as, for example, the impact of slavery in Europe and America and the resulting “forced mobility” of those sold into servitude. Another topic was the shortcomings of the humanitarian community during the 2015 “Migrant Crisis” in Europe when, for the first time, humanitarian organizations had to deliver much-needed aid to refugees in the very countries that sponsored their aid in the first place. These discussions blended in with a third “hot button” issue, which was the politicization of migration, when migrants themselves become targets of political maneuvers.
The conference has clearly shown two contradicting constants. First, migration changes. It changes with the needs of migrants but also with the structure of the global economy and the needs and opportunities of both sending and receiving spaces (this term is necessary as migration is much older than nation-states). Migration due to slave trading can hardly be compared with the migration flow from Arab countries to Europe in 2015. Yet they are both clear examples of moments when (forced) resettlement of people had a tremendous impact on regional communities.
This leads to the second observation which is that migration does not change. No generation and no geography has ever “stood still.” The human species has always been “on the move” for economic, cultural, or political reasons.
In this sense, the 21st century is no different from previous eras. Alienation of both host countries and sending states due to the societal changes that migration flows bring is nothing new. While receiving states may or may not reject new-comers to their communities depending on their political situations, sending states could either suffer in some ways (for example when brain-drains occur) or could benefit from the networks of overseas-workers who contribute to their economies while living far away. Even transit countries of migration are usually heavily impacted in one way or the other be it through trade (including human trade) or the humanitarian or ecological impact that different kinds of migration bring.
It is safe to conclude that in every century the impact of the movement of people(s), their cultures, and their ideas has shaped the communities with which they came into contact.
Questions that arose from these observations were manifold; when do societies support and encourage migration? When do they condemn it? Under what circumstances do such topics become issues of national debate? What kind of scientific approaches to migration are feasible and can this topic even be impartially addressed without a debate about values and moral imperatives?
Much remains to be explored. Hopefully in future UBIAS conferences.
WIAS invites distinguished, internationally active researchers from overseas. Through scholarly exchanges, seminars, and other activities jointly undertaken with Waseda researchers, WIAS contributes to the invigoration of the university’s research activities.more information
- September 7, 2019～October 7, 2019 GROSSMANN, Martin, Professor, School of Communication and Arts, University of Sao Paulo (Brazil)
- November 1, 2019～December 1, 2019 Pei-Chia, Distinguished Professor, Department of Sociology, National Taiwan University (Taiwan)
- January 7, 2020～February 7, 2020 SACKUR, Jerome, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (France)
- March 1, 2020～March 31, 2020 CARDOSO, Vitor, Professor, Instituto Superior Tecnico, University of Lisbon (Portugal)
- January 7, 2020～March 6, 2020 PARK, Yuha, Professor, Sejong University (Korea )
- January 3, 2020～February 3, 2020 KIM, Sei-wan, Professor, Ewha Womans University (Korea)