December 22, 2022 by
Janet Essman Franz
Albert van der Vliet, Ph.D. (right), with Takaaki Akaike, M.D., Ph.D., near the Tsuruga-Jo castle in Aizu, Japan.
A more than quarter century-long relationship between faculty and scientists at Tohoku University in Sendai, Japan, and members of the University of Vermont’s Redox Biology and Pathology (RBP) Program has fostered biomedical research scholarship and discoveries. Albert van der Vliet, Ph.D., professor of pathology and laboratory medicine, recently returned from a six-week Invited Fellowship at Tohoku University, where he participated in research in the laboratory of Takaaki Akaike, M.D., Ph.D., professor of environmental medicine and molecular toxicology. The invitational fellowship relates to a Tohoku initiative, titled “Connective Research Strategy,” which allows Tohoku faculty members to host invited researchers to promote collaborative research in the host lab for up to three months and aims to promote joint publications and expand international collaborations. The third oldest Imperial University in Japan, Tohoku University enrolls 18,000 students across 10 faculties, 15 graduate schools and six research institutes.
van der Vliet's six-week fellowship coincided with a medley of scientific meetings and symposia, supported by several professional societies, collectively termed Redox Week in Sendai 2022, held Oct 27-Nov 1. The events brought together leading scientists from around the world in the specific research fields of nitric oxide biology, polysulfur biochemistry, and redox biology. van der Vliet was co-organizer and speaker at one of these symposia, and Yvonne Janssen-Heininger, Ph.D., and Brian Cunniff, Ph.D., also participated as invited speakers. Janssen-Heininger, Cunniff, and van der Vliet are faculty in UVM’s RBP program and members of the UVM Cancer Center. The RBP program maintains strong national and international recognition and engages in ongoing, collaborative interactions with multiple academic research institutions across the world.
UVM’s connection with Tohoku began more than 25 years ago when van der Vliet recruited one of Akaike’s junior faculty members to work in his laboratory as a post-doctoral researcher. Since then, there have been multiple visits and collaborations between researchers at the two institutions. Janssen-Heininger and Hozumi Motohashi, M.D., Ph.D., a professor and co-deputy director at the Institute of Development, Aging, and Cancer at Tohoku University, served as invited professors at each other’s institutions. During the past two decades, these interactions have resulted in several publications co-authored by Akaike, Motohashi, and van der Vliet, in top-level, peer-reviewed journals such as Nature Chemical Biology, Science Advances, and Redox Biology.
In addition to the Connective Research Strategy initiative, Akaike and colleagues recently launched RECONNECT (KAKENHI), a seven-year program to be supported by federal funds from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science and the Monbu Kagakusho Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. This program offers graduate students and post-doctoral scholars opportunities to work in overseas labs to further foster collaboration and high-quality research. Both van der Vliet and Janssen-Heininger were nominated to serve as overseas research mentors in this program and to receive appointments as visiting/affiliate professor at Tohoku University.
These recent developments “highlight the significant strength and visibility of the RBP program at UVM, and hopefully will help continue the international reputation and future research opportunities of this research program,” van der Vliet said.