Table Speech

"Mind or heart turns gene switch on"

May 26, 2010

Mr. Kazuo Murakami
Emeritus Professor, University of Tsukuba

 I have worked in the field of life science for nearly 50 years, of which I spent about 20 years at University of Tsukuba. About 10 years ago we were honored to welcome Mr. Reona Esaki, a Nobel laureate, then working for IBM in the US, as our President. I must admit it was not an easy task to invite a scholar from the private sector who had spent many years in the US, to become a head of a national university.

 I recall Mr. Esaki’s speech made at the Enrollment Ceremony, his début as President: “A certain professor from a small American university received the Nobel Prize. The professor was invited to give lecturers across the country, travelling by a chauffer-driven car provided by the university. The professor was fed up with repeated lectures. One day at a small town where nobody recognized his face, he asked his chauffer to make a speech. The chauffer recited the whole lecture which he learnt by heart and received an ovation. As he was leaving the podium, a question came from the floor. He said in an unperturbed manner, ‘I am impressed with such a wonderful question, yet let me ask my chauffer who is dozing off in the back to answer such an easy question.’”

 I cited Mr. Esaki’s witty speech to illustrate how laughter activates our genes. I have undertaken “studies on laughter” for the past 5 years jointly with Yoshimoto Kogyo Co. (an agency for comedians) We study which genes are turned on (functioning) or off (not functioning) by laughter. Our experiments conducted in collaboration with comedians showed that laughter actually lowers blood glucose levels. I plan to introduce “laugher therapy” into medical treatment.

 Through my 25-year-study on genes, I learnt genes are switched on by external factors, including exercises or food. Now, how does activity in our mind or heart turn on/off our genes?

 Thanks to scientific advancement, all human genetic codes have been decoded today. We also know most of our genes are dormant. If we succeed in turning on the healthy and talented dormant genes and turning off decease-triggering negative genes, our potentiality will be maximized.

 For many years, I have been amazed by the miracle of human genetic codes, containing information worth ten thousand volumes of literature recorded in microscopic cells. Who wrote these genetic codes, the ultra microscopic world of all living creatures? There should be a greater power in the universe that wrote all the genetic codes and make them function in order. I reached the conclusion that there exists an invisible, mysterious and unfathomable nature, what I named “Something Great” serving as the greater power or “a parent from which all living creatures have sprung up.”

 Today, we manufacture various medicines using the colon bacilli, thanks to the scientific findings that all living creatures (from microorganism, plants to human beings) of all times (past, present and future) are formulated by exactly the same genetic code. This is why we can create human hormones and enzymes by decoding the genetic codes of colon bacilli. We have discovered that all living creatures are linked through DNA, as our ancestors were once relatives or brothers and sisters throughout history. This new approach towards living creatures is applied into genetic engineering. It will also be applicable to formulate measures against environmental issues.

 Today, we have gained extensive information on materials, yet we cannot create the original creature itself even with our advanced scientific knowledge and abundant resources of the world. This is because the probability of a cell being born by accident is an astronomical figure. What is more, an average human adult is composed of 60 trillion cells, with exactly the same genetic copy of a fertilized ovum. These 60 trillion cells are replaced every day, repeating life and death.

 Organs do function as the cell helps other cells, while playing its own role. What makes this miraculous “network of cooperation” work? Some doctors say it is the autonomic nerve, yet we know nothing about the genetic information that makes this network function. It is my sincere wish to discover the genetic information in the 21st century.

 New born babies are 3.8 billion years old on the earth scale, as they replicate the 3.8-billion-year history of evolution during 38 weeks in their mother’s womb. 1 week for mothers is worth 100 million years for babies.

 This is why life is so precious. What is more, 13.7 billion years have passed since the creation of the universe. Our life is 13.7 billion years old on the universe scale. Each one of us condenses the history of evolution worth 13.7 billion years on the universe scale and 3.8 billion years on the earth scale.

 I want to serve as a messenger of “Something Great.” Japan will surely be able to play an important role in the 21st century, with its scientific and economic powers, as well as our long tradition of sensing “Something Great.” We have long appreciated and sympathized with great Mother Nature. If we switch on our dormant genes, I am convinced Japan will have an even greater role to play in the world.