Starting year 2023

Gifu university
Institute for Advanced Study/United Graduate School of Drug Discovery and Medical Information Sciences
G-YLC Designated Assistant Professor

Research fields

Biomolecular Chemistry
Synthetic Biology
Supramolecular Chemistry

Research Interests

Stimuli responsive molecule
artificial cell

Professional Memberships

The Chemical Society of Japan
Japanese Society for Chemical Biology
The Japanese Biochemical Society
The Society of Polymer Science, Japan

Main research topics

I have been working on the development of new functional materials using biomolecules.
Recently, we have successfully synthesized a new amino sugar derivative by introducing a chemically reactive nitrophenyl molecule into an amino sugar in one step. It turned into a jelly-like substance called a supramolecular hydrogel with reduced fluidity. In the synthesized jelly-like substance, amino sugar derivatives spontaneously self-assembled in water. The researchers clarified that these self-assembled substances were composed of nanofibers with diameter in the realm of tens of nanometers. In addition, this jelly-like material was dissolved via reduction reactions. The aminosaccharide derivatives synthesized in this study are hydrogels that form a jelly-like substance and respond to a reduction stimulus. Such molecules can be characterized as the smallest class of sophisticated molecules that are known globally.
Second, I have developed multicomponent supramolecular materials using self-assembling nucleic acids (DNAs) and peptides. We propose to apply self-sorting phenomena to form multicomponent supramolecular materials composed of DNA and peptides, because only one-pot and one-step thermal annealing is needed. These materials we developed can retain all properties of each supramolecular nanostructure. Therefore, I would like to further develop new sophisticated and multifunctional materials using our multicomponent supramolecular materials.
On the other hand, I am also engaged in research using a synthetic cell model: Giant Unilamellar Vesicles (GUVs) very recently.

Representative papers

S. L. Higashi, A. Shibata, Y. Kitamura, K. M. Hirosawa, K. G. N. Suzuki, K. Matsuura and M. Ikeda, “Hybrid Soft Nanomaterials Composed of DNA Microspheres and Supramolecular Nanostructures of Semi-artificial Glycopeptides,” Chemistry –A European Journal (2019), 25, 11955–11962.

S. L. Higashi and M. Ikeda, “Development of an amino sugar-based supramolecular hydrogelator with reduction responsiveness,” JACS Au (2021), 1(10), 1639–1646.

Research URL

researchmap https://researchmap.jp/s_higashi
ORCiD      https://orcid.org/0000-0001-8488-4808

Global issues to be solved through this project

Development of artificial cell-type molecular robots to address the challenges of CAR-T cell therapy

Recently, Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cells have attracted attention as a new drug modality of “cell therapy. CAR-T cells are genetically engineered T cells to express a receptor for the recognition of the particular surface marker that has given rise to advances in the treatment of blood disorders with a high success rate. However, their efficacy in solid tumor treatment has not yet been supported. One of the main reasons for this is the densely packed extracellular matrix (ECM) or tumor microenvironment around solid cancer cells, which prevents the invasion of CAR-T cells. Therefore, I aim to develop a therapeutic cell-type molecular robot (CMR) using bottom-up artificial cells with stimuli responsive molecules to solve the problems exposed by CAR-T cell therapy for solid tumors.