Sachiko Takahashi, president of GeneQuest Co., Ltd. and executive officer of Euglena Co., Ltd., which provides gene analysis services, is also a life scientist who studies the genome and the mechanism of life. What is the latest information on life science that you should know now in 2021? We also asked what kind of life science should be recognized in the with corona era.

What is "life science" in the first place?

As the name suggests, life science is a discipline that analyzes and studies all kinds of "life" including human beings, even invisible things such as cells and molecules.

In terms of life science for humans, the human genome (all genetic information) was deciphered in 2003, and genome analysis technology has rapidly developed. The speed of analysis of genome sequences has increased, and a huge amount of data has been accumulated, which has made it possible to visualize the phenomena of life based on the data. It is a field that analyzes what life is like at the cellular and molecular levels, including information science.

-How is it different from "biology"?

Biology has basically evolved on an observational basis. For example, in the case of heredity, biology has been elucidated through observations such as whether the shapes of plant leaves are the same, but life science will elucidate invisible things at the genomic and molecular levels. .. At first glance, it looks healthy to humans, but it is a characteristic of life science that we can predict and change the future, such as whether we are really healthy, what kind of condition we are in, and what kind of illness we will have in the future. is.

-Is the "new coronavirus" one of the invisible things?

I agree. Especially in the last year or so, life science has been very useful in dealing with the new coronavirus. Compared to a decade ago, virus sequences are now being elucidated and published on the Internet at an unprecedented speed, allowing researchers around the world to conduct research on viruses.

If the new coronavirus had occurred 20 years ago, it might have been like, "I don't know what the cause is, but some people are dying" because there is no analysis technology like now.

It is also amazing that life science can immediately tell that the virus that is mutating more and more is a new virus. Vaccine development is progressing at a tremendous speed thanks to advances in life science, so I think that humans are being saved by life science.

Is it natural for a virus to mutate? Correctly fear the new coronavirus

Most viruses are made up of RNA (ribonucleic acid). It is well known that DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) has a double-stranded double helix structure, but RNA is a single string of the double helix.

Since it is basically a single chain, it has low structural stability and is easily decomposed. Therefore, the base sequence changes rapidly and the virus mutates. By analyzing the base sequence, you can tell whether it is the same virus as before or a mutated virus.

-I think many people are worried when they hear the news that the new coronavirus has mutated, but it was only a matter of time before the virus mutated.

It is natural for the virus to mutate, so you don't have to worry about the mutation itself. The point to keep in mind is how it changed as a result of the mutation. You need to know and be afraid of the nature of the virus, whether it has become more virulent or attenuated, more or less infectious.

Human beings have been "with virus" since they were born

-However, the era of "with corona" seems to continue.

Since the spread of the new coronavirus, the words "before corona", "with corona (with corona)", and "after corona" have suddenly appeared. The term "virus era" has come up, but human beings have lived in the "with virus" era since they were born.

Human beings were born about 200,000 years ago, and viruses are much older than human beings, but they were born 3 billion years ago and have affected the genomes of us humans and other living things.

For example, a type of virus called a retrovirus has come to change the genome sequence of a host by infecting the host organism. Normally, the gene changes and evolves by inheriting the gene from the parent to the child, but the gene changes between individuals depending on the virus. In other words, viruses and life have co-evolved.

-So, does it mean that it will coexist with the new coronavirus?

In general, there are four patterns of association with infectious diseases. The relationship is that the virus cannot propagate, that humans become extinct, that they coexist, and that they coexist but fight if there is a chance. Fighting if there is a chance is a relationship that is always inside our body, and when immunity weakens, symptoms such as herpes zoster and herpes appear.

In the case of this new type of coronavirus, there are many mildly ill people, so I think it is unlikely that "humans will become extinct." I think that the vaccine either "cannot propagate the virus and disappears" or "coexists" like a common cold.

Even if we overcome the new coronavirus, new infectious diseases will definitely emerge, so we will continue to be in the "with virus" era. However, there is a future that can be changed.

I've talked about "gene testing / gene analysis" before, but it's very important to know what kind of illness you are likely to get by testing genes and what kind of constitution you are, and to prepare properly. That's right.

I was also reminded by this corona disaster. It is said that the new coronavirus has a high risk for people with underlying diseases, so you may have thought that the health of the base is important. There are some illnesses that can be prevented by knowing your own risks and changing your behavior, so you can truly "predict the future and change yourself."

Listener / Sentence / Asami Cho

Shoko Takahashi
Born in 1988. Graduated from the Faculty of Agriculture, Kyoto University.
In June 2013, while enrolled in the doctoral program at the Graduate School of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the University of Tokyo
Established GeneQuest Co., Ltd.
Completed the doctoral course in March 2015 and obtained a doctorate.
We provide a genome analysis service that conveys genetic information on disease risk and constitution to individuals.
April 2018 Appointed Executive Officer in charge of Bioinformatics Business, Euglena Co., Ltd.