Research Support

Discovery of mechanical site of reaction to induce cellular differentiation

Project Gist

Induction of synapse formation and Manipulation of neural function


Synapse formation, Learning & Memory, Nanotechnology, Live-cell imaging

Background and Purpose

In multicellular organisms, differentiation of cellular morphology and function is induced by genetic programs or environmental factors. Molecular mechanisms that induce differentiation mainly from gene expression and hormones have been intensively studied. On the other hand, new knowledge is also increasing on the mechanisms by which differentiation-inducing signals are received via binding to cells and extracellular substrates. This project aimed to establish an original technology to significantly alter neuronal cell morphology and function by using cell adhesion molecules.

Project Achievements

Through international collaboration with the Francis Crick Institute, one of the largest biomedical research institute in Europe, we have established a novel technique for microinjection of magnetic nanoparticles into single cells to manipulate cell functions and induction of synapse formation with the technique of coating cell adhesion molecules on a glass surface. The technology was then applied to elucidate the release and retrieval mechanisms of neurotransmitters deeply involved in learning and memory.

Future Prospects

Taking advantage of the knowledge, skills and human networks gained in this SPIRITS project, I will participate in international research programs at another university in order to become a new project manager-type research leader.


Do mechanical manipulations from inside or outside the cell change cell morphology and function?
Examples of cell morphology changes. Different manipulations caused fan-shaped protrusions (arrows) or large elongation in one direction (dashed lines).

Principal Investigator

TANAKA Hiromitsu

TANAKA Hiromitsu
Graduation School of Science
Assistant professor since 2013 in Kyoto University. He is a neuroscientist, who is focusing on synapses, where neuronal information transmits between neurons. He tries to elucidate the molecular mechanisms to control brain functions such as memory and learning.

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