Hiroki Kitaura

Komatsu University, Ishikawa, Japan


2005 PhD, Niigata University Graduate School of Medical and Dental Sciences (Dept of Neurophysiology)
2008 Assistant professor, Dept of Pathology, Brain Research Institute, Niigata University
2019 Specially appointed associate professor, Dept of Pathology, Brain Research Institute, Niigata University
2022 Professor, Dept of Clinical Engineering, Faculty of Health Sciences, Komatsu University

at BRI

What research did you do when you were at BRI?

When I first joined BRI as a graduate student, I was doing research on functional brain imaging and electrophysiology under the mentorship of Dr Katsuei Shibuki in Dept of Neurophysiology. My doctoral thesis was electrophysiological analysis of the plasticity on neural networks in the rat cerebral cortex using the patch clamp technique. I then advanced my research to study the reorganization of the active dependent brain functional map in mouse somatosensory cortex in vivo. After my PhD, I engaged in functional brain imaging using MRI in mice supervised by Dr Hironaka Igarashi (Center for Integrated Human Brain Science) and later joined Dept of Pathology (Dr Akiyoshi Kakita's lab) to work on imaging analysis of epileptogenicity using surgical samples.
This was a pioneering project to establish the experimental system for optical imaging of epilepsy pathology in human brain tissue, in collaboration with Drs Yukihiko Fujii and Makoto Oishi (Dept of Neurosurgery) and Dr Masafumi Fukuda (NHO Nishiniigata Chuo Hospital) along with the full support of Dr Kakita and other pathologists. Working closely with Dept of Neurosurgery, acute brain slice preparations from freshly resected brain tissue can be incubated to obtain detailed ex vivo neuronal activity recordings from the actual epileptic focal tissue. This allowed me to identify and report that there are different functional epilepsy mechanisms with different pathological histopathology of epileptic focal tissues.
There is no other place but BRI where you can obtain comprehensive knowledge and skills on the brain in every possible way, from human to animal, from morphology to function, from physiology to pathology, from basic to clinical, and to me, it has been an invaluable asset to be able to carry out such integrated research.

at BRI

Tell us about your current research.

I am now working on a study analyzing the mechanism of ictogenesis, making use of the research findings and experience of my previous studies with human brain tissue. It is generally believed that epileptic seizures occur when focal epileptogenic tissues, which have acquired "epileptogenesis" based on pathologically diverse tissue changes, are further affected by "ictogenesis" caused by some internal or external factors. By clarifying the mechanisms of "ictogenesis" caused by internal factors to drive "epileptogenesis," an organic lesion of the brain, I am challenging the preposition of why epileptic seizures suddenly start and how they end. I am in the process of setting up a new experimental system using individuals in animal models. I believe that the simultaneous approach for elucidating the function as generator of epilepsy using actual focal tissues, which is only possible at BRI, and for elucidating ictogenesis at the individual level as Amplifier and Trigger in animal models, will lead to a reliable understanding and control of epilepsy pathology.

at Komatsu University

What is your future plan?

People with epilepsy often impose their own restrictions on social participation due to not knowing when seizures will happen. Therefore, it is important to accurately assess individual "ictogenesis" and understand the risk for patients with various "epileptogenesis". If risk factors of developing seizures can be assessed not only from the patient's own subjective viewpoint, but also from an objective viewpoint, barriers to social participation will be lowered. Since I am currently in Dept of Clinical Engineering at Komatsu University, an environment that allows me to work in both medicine and electronics, my research aims to develop wearable devices that can easily assess risk factors of developing seizures in the future.

Interviewed in December 2022.