[Report]MANAI Lab: from basic research skills to scientific breakthroughs and discoveries

Our Iidabashi-based Manai lab has been created based on a strong demand from the signing up for Manai learning sessions students, who either had their own school-initiated research project in biology, or just have had a general interest in BioMedicine. Accidentally, due to recent COVID-19 events, not surprisingly, we observe a spike in the students’ motivation to learn more about PCR, what is DNA, RNA and, of course, viruses. Our current abilities not only fully satisfy both general learning and specific inquiries, but also fulfill the demand on assisting with a students’ specific project to help not only with a guidance provided by qualified scientists, but also to generate a scientific presentation and even an article. We are striving to nurture the future generation of dedicated scientists.

  From learning the basic skills of micropipetting and making up solutions, to molecular cloning and revealing the logic of Life phenomena, here is the motto of our lab curriculum. Problem-based education with practical ability to design, solve and, if necessary, to troubleshoot an experimental flow, is a key for our research sessions. We offer two types of them, first one is a regular PCR workshop run every Sunday over 3-4 hours where students learn basic skills of molecular, cellular biology, biochemistry, and microbiology, accompanied by the theoretical explanations and theoretical problems discussions; the second type is held within a week in the afternoons, the so called advanced sessions, targeting predominantly students with the own research projects, but not limited to them, where researchers are developing their own strategy to design an experimental set up and, quite often, to find a way out of a puzzle of an unexpected result interpretation. Needless to mention, that the experienced students are quite often help to train the newcomers.

   On a top of basic equipment, supporting the research flow and education (conventional and real-time qRT-PCRs, agarose, urea and SDS-PAGE gels, Westerns, spectrophotometer, transilluminator and wide spectrum imager, in vitro transcription/translation systems, bacterial and tissue culturing facilities etc.) we also provide students with an opportunity to try different variety of animal tissues currently available in the lab: transgenic and non-transgenic bacteria (E.coli), human embryonic kidney cell line (HEK293), frozen newts (Japanese imori), mouse brain slices, rabbit anitiserum. In our hands are the most modern bacterial plasmid-based vectors and a variety of viral promoters (T3, T7 and SP3 bacteriophages, human CMV (cytomegalovirus) for the cell line-based expressions), and HeLa cells lysates for the in vitro expressions of mammalian and human proteins.

  In a perspective, there are plans to expand our abilities to perform cellular and physiological experiments, and, perhaps, to introduce animal behavioral facilities to use mice as models for the human psychiatric disorders (“Tokyo mouse Clinique”), and, at last but not at least, to tackle a wider range of the front edge scientific questions of finding cure and understanding the molecular basis of devastating disorders.