Background of the Establishment of the CeMI

1. The CeMI was established within the iCeMS on March 3, 2009, as an imaging center to develop imaging technologies and promote their applications for studies on meso-scale dynamic structures and molecular behavior.

Kyoto University’s iCeMS was founded on October 1, 2007, as one of the five research centers in the program of the World Premier International Research Center (WPI) Initiative of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology of the Japanese government. The iCeMS aims to create a new research field in the cross-disciplinary areas between cellular and material sciences, with a strong emphasis on dynamic, weakly-cooperative meso-scale structures and controls, because the cellular and material worlds meet each other on the meso-scale. The iCeMS emphasizes interactive research among the iCeMS members, in which the knowledge gained in material sciences is applied to studying and controlling cellular functions, and the knowledge gained by studying cells is used to develop new functional materials. As such, the fusion of the two worlds is likely to be a critical source for tomorrow’s technological innovations, and this is the place where the iCeMS hopes to lead the world.

2. The most exciting meso-scale events will be the dynamic formation of meso-scale structures and their functions, based on the fluctuating structures. Meso-scale structures are dynamic systems composed of nano-scale components, binding to each other and assembling due to thermal fluctuations (Brownian movement). Here lies the major difference between meso-science and nano-science. Meso-science focuses on dynamic systems, while nano-science tends to deal with static components and units.

To capture the most exciting and interesting moments when the meso-scale structures form (and disintegrate) and function, at the CeMI we are pursuing the following three approaches, which we believe are most effective.

(1)   Single-molecule tracking and manipulation. This is an approach to track the movement of each individual nano-component in a dynamic meso system in living cells.

(2)   Advanced electron microscopy, which allows us to observe the ultrafine structure of the meso system at the spatial resolution of the nano components, under conditions very close to those in living cells.

(3)   Terahertz microscopy, which provides information on the mechanisms of interactions between the nano components.

We clearly envisaged these points in the planning stage of the iCeMS, by recruiting world leaders in these fields to apply to the WPI program.

3. One and a half years have passed since the foundation of iCeMS, and its objectives have become clearer than ever. With the installation of key instrumentation, the decision was made to establish a center within the iCeMS, to lead the world in the imaging of dynamic meso-scale biological architectures in living cells at spatiotemporal resolutions that allow the imaging of single molecules.

Previously, the core PIs at the iCeMS had experienced difficulties in receiving domestic and international researchers, who were interested in collaborating with them and/or learning the new imaging technologies, due to shortages of manpower, machine time, and funding for the guests' visits. Meanwhile, the opposite was also true for scientists living overseas. The geographical and psychological distances between Japan and their homes have deterred many scientists from coming to Japan for collaborative research. This situation has been improved significantly by the opening of the CeMI, as well as by the support of the iCeMS, which supplies some funding, supports living in Kyoto, and provides space and various services.

4. The opening of the CeMI will enhance the synergetic efforts by the four core PIs of the CeMI, who were already world leaders in their fields, by forming a critical mass to forcefully advance meso-imaging.

5. The CeMI addresses the important, standard imaging needs of the iCeMS researchers. However, its higher goal is to become a global collaboration platform for conducting fundamentally important research. This will help the iCeMS to achieve one of its most difficult missions: to become a world research hub for studies of integrated cell-material sciences.

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