The notion of “measurement of taste” and a taste sensor, the machine which measures the tastes of foods or beverages, were proposed from Kyushu University in 1989. We offered the cutting-edge technology in Japan and the world by this taste sensor that utilized self-organized lipid membranes as biological membrane-like type. After that, the taste sensor-related technology has been advanced and developed in not only sensor itself but also supportive businesses. That is, two venture companies, Intelligent Sensor Technology, Inc. and Taste & Aroma Strategic Research Institute, were established. At present, the commercialized product taste sensors (SA402B，TS-5000Z) are widely used on many sites in many countries and data base for taste is also widely provided. Subsequently, “electric tongue” was produced, developed and commercialized in other country.
In addition, research and development of the odor sensor are accomplished actively for nearly 30 years in Japan. The odor sensor with super higher sensitivity than the nose of the dog is developed in here Kyushu University and subsequent investigation toward full-scale practical use in future has been continued as collaborative works with some ministries and government offices. Also, studies for so-called odor imaging to watch odorant in the space with eyes are going to be more active recently, and future development is promising.
Furthermore, Kyushu University leads the world in the field of the sensory physiology. We have continuously reported taste receptor molecules and their function from 1980s when a gene which is involved in sweet taste perception discovered. Currently, authors ranked top of the world in Science Citation Index of papers concerning “taste receptor”. Additionally, based on the development of technologies for wide-ranging studies that includes genetics, molecular biology and measurement of brain neural activities, it has been clarified that signal regulation systems in brain-gut axis and oral cavity also regulates not only sensation but also appetite and nutrient absorption. Accordingly, our investigation progresses toward the tailor-made preventive health care for a lifestyle-related disease. These biological data may contribute to the development our machinery sensors in future.
Research and development center for taste and odor sensing is established in November 1, 2013 in the background I mentioned above. While the center was organized by 3 divisions “taste sensor”, “odor sensor”and “sensory physiology” and has kept activity, the center was expanded in July 1, 2014 in order to strengthen the activity and promotion system further. In the world, particularly in Japan as an aging society with a declining birthrate, it is necessary to implement optimal medical care for safe, secure and comfortable daily life of infants and elderly people. For that purpose, “division of applied medical sensing” was created to robustly promote the study of medical care and health monitoring by detection of chemicals in urine, bad breath and body odor. In this division, by means of elucidation of correspondence between odorants and their receptors in nematode, C. elegans, we are going to develop a new sensor to detect cancer in its early stage and basic diagnosis technology those are followed by clinical evaluations.
Research and development center for taste and odor sensing is one of eminent study bases in the world which is constituted by above mentioned 4 specialized division (taste sensor, odor sensor, sensory physiology and applied medical sensing), and we are carrying through basic studies and application studies which is followed by social implementation. Our goal is to offer medical and health science that contribute to healthy life and to produce novel organic biodevices that contribute to safe, secure and comfortable life for individuals, for the sake of safe, secure, comfortable and sensibility-rich society in the 21st century. I would like to thank you for your understanding and cooperation for our center.