Outline of our Research

Today it is possible for mankind to spend more than six months in Outer Space on the International Space Station. The next challenging steps include human exploration to Mars, new missions to the Moon, and living in Space permanently remains a future challenge. Many countries from around the world are participating in global research efforts towards this goal.
How much plasticity can living organisms have in the extreme environment of Space? Are there synergistic interactions among extreme stresses generated during a stay in Space? These questions must be answered before humanity can embark on an extended journey further into Space.
In this Scientific Research on Innovative Areas, we explore the science of plasticity that organisms possess and plasticity collapse in the extreme environment of Space. The plasticity of life may be translated as homeostasis or exemplified by adaptation, repair capabilities, and robustness that organisms possess against external environmental changes, whereas collapse indicates irreversible damage that ruins plasticity, which can be a serious risk of a prolonged stay in Space. As examples of various extreme environmental risks that humans may encounter in Space, our teams of interdisciplinary researchers primarily discuss the environmental risks of zero gravity, confinement, cosmic radiation, and microorganisms. Integrating our findings at various levels from molecular and cellular levels to higher-order control of human activities will help unravel the unknown domains of science, including the interactions and complex effects of different kinds of environmental risks. Furthermore, our goal includes applying our findings to strategies against a hyper-aging and hyper-stressful society on Earth.

Objectives, Significance, and Development of this Research
Our Organizational Chart

Research Organization

The academic goal of this research is to examine the plasticity that organisms possess and its collapse in the extreme environment of Space. The following chart depicts our organizational structure.

Our Organizational Chart
Our Organizational Chart

Our research groups are divided into three main categories: A01, A02, and A03. Category A01 focuses on the molecular and cellular foundations of gravity responses in cells and small model animals. Category A02 studies the impact of a space environment on the higher-order homeostasis of, primarily, humans. Category A03 focuses on space environmental risks, such as cosmic radiation, changes in microbial flora, etc. These efforts are undertaken by the Programmed and Proposed Research.

The research management group promotes research in an integrated manner, and is composed of the following members:

Research Management Group
Name Position and Organization
Satoshi Furukawa Senior Researcher Human Spaceflight Technology Directorate, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency
Keiji Naruse Professor, Graduate School of Medicine, Dentistry and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Okayama University
Atsushi Higashitani Professor, Graduate School of Life Sciences, Tohoku University
Atsuko Sehara-Fujisawa Professor, Institute for Frontier Medical Sciences, Kyoto University
Kenichi Iwasaki Professor, School of Medicine, Nihon University
Hironobu Morita Professor, Graduate School of Medicine, Gifu University
Ichiyo Matsuzaki Professor, Faculty of Medicine, University of Tsukuba
Hiroshi Nagase Professor, International Institute for Integrative Sleep Medicine, University of Tsukuba
Mitsuru Nenoi Program Leader, Research Center for Radiation Protection, National Institute of Radiological Sciences (NIRS)
Akihisa Takahashi Professor, Gunma University Heavy Ion Medical Center (GHMC), Gunma University
Masao Nasu Visiting Professor, Faculty of Pharmacy, Osaka Ohtani University
Jun Hidema Associate Professor, Graduate School of Life Sciences, Tohoku University
Akira Higashibata Associate Senior Researcher, Human Spaceflight Technology Directorate, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency
Toru Shimazu Senior Researcher, Human Spaceflight Technology Directorate, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency
Tadashi Murai Adviser, Human Spaceflight Technology Directorate, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency
Keiji Murakami Senior Researcher, Human Spaceflight Technology Directorate, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency