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euglena Project


Acquire super-Euglena.

To reduce the cost of biofuel
Development of breeding method for Euglena with high oil content



Development of unprecedented breeding method for Euglena

The characteristics of the same Euglena differ depending on the species. Some Euglena are rich in nutrients, while others are chubby and rich in oil.

-2014. Interested in the potential of Euglena, Iwata was pondering when he joined the company as a researcher.
"If we can efficiently select only Euglena, which contains a lot of oil, and cultivate it in large quantities, toward the realization of the biofuel business ..."
If Euglena, which grows by photosynthesis (water and CO 2) like plants, can be used as a raw material for biofuels, it will theoretically not increase CO 2 in the atmosphere compared to petroleum. Euglena is truly an earth-friendly fuel.

I was just thinking that way.
In October 2014, the Innovative Research and Development Promotion Program (ImPACT) led by the Cabinet Office began recruiting innovative research themes that would bring about major changes in industry and society. Called.
"There must be a special Euglena with good performance that has not been found yet. Why don't you look for it with Euglena, which continues to research Euglena?"

At that time, no research institute, including our company, was able to breed Euglena. This is because Euglena is difficult to genetically modify, and other breeding methods were not established at that time.
However, by giving a special change to Euglena, it is possible to create a population that includes individuals with characteristics different from those of wild varieties that live in freshwater, such as ponds and rivers. He said that if there was a technology to select Euglena with specific characteristics from among them, it would be possible to create varieties with a high oil content for biofuels.

In this way, research to create Euglena (scientific name: Euglena), that is, "Super Euglena", which has characteristics suitable for biofuel production among many Euglena, began with a team led by Iwata. ..

Iwata at the time of 2015

Study of Euglena conducted by two-legged race

The ImPACT program lasts only two and a half years.
"If we don't manage to achieve results in this limited period ..."
Iwata made a research plan from scratch and proceeded with the experiment.

First, we experimented to see if we could artificially produce Euglena with a high oil content.
Based on the hypothesis that Euglena can be produced with various characteristics different from those of wild varieties by forcibly changing Euglena, we decided to irradiate Euglena with a heavy ion beam *. The number of institutions that can use heavy ion beams is quite limited in Japan, and we asked RIKEN for cooperation.

* Irradiates accelerated high-energy iron ions to give special changes to the Euglena genome.

"If the irradiation is too strong, Euglena will die, and if the irradiation is too weak, it will not give a good change to the strain ..."
This is the first attempt to irradiate Euglena with a heavy ion beam. In the first experiment, the irradiation was too strong and the Euglena was wiped out. In addition, the heavy ion beam is an experimental device often used by other researchers, so once the experiment failed, it had to wait three months.
Iwata will read papers on how to apply heavy ion beams and repeat hypotheses and verifications so that he can succeed with as few times as possible, and manage to create a group containing Euglena with characteristics different from wild varieties in one year. succeeded in.

Next, we searched for and experimented with a method for selecting Euglena with a high oil content from a population containing Euglena, which has characteristics different from those of wild varieties produced by heavy ion beams.
One day, when Iwata was thinking about how to select a specific Euglena, Goda Program Manager made such a proposal.
"If you use a cell sorter, you may be able to sort out specific Euglena."
A cell sorter is a device for selecting specific cells from various types of cells. Of course, there was no precedent for trying Euglena, but I have to do it anyway. When I immediately consulted with my colleague Yamada, a veteran researcher who is working on the ImPACT project together, Yamada said:
"Mr. Iwata, Euglena with a high oil content may be selectable. Let's try it."

The day I first tried the cell sorter ... Once again, a huge number of Euglena have died.
After that, as a result of examining the cause for several months, it was found that the cells of Euglena are so large that they get caught in the nozzle and die. Having found the cause, Iwata and Yamada developed a method to select only specific Euglena by adjusting the size of the nozzle of the cell sorter.
"Mr. Yamada, you did it! In order to efficiently select Euglena with a high oil content, Euglena is dyed with a reagent that dyes the oil in a fluorescent color, and the difference in fluorescence intensity is used to shine well. Let's just take it out! "

Iwata and Yamada, who found a method to select only specific Euglena with a cell sorter, repeatedly selected and raised Euglena with stronger fluorescence intensity several times.

And one morning in June 2015, Yamada said that Iwata would come to Tsurumi's lab.
"Maybe ... Euglena with a high oil content!"

Comparison of fat content
The newly harvested Euglena had a 40% higher oil content than normal

In this way, Team Iwata acquired the world's first Euglena with a high oil content by breeding, and established the world's first method for selecting a specific Euglena. In addition, we succeeded in obtaining Euglena, which contains about 40% more oil than wild Euglena.

With the contributions of these two people, we are accelerating the commercialization of biofuels in 2020.

Posted in October 2017

Euglena Data

-About the selection method of "Super Euglena"-


Research and Development Department
Research Planning and Development Section Chief
Osamu Iwata

Joined the company as a researcher in April 2013. Since 2014, he has been involved in breeding such as Euglena.


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