Hiromasa Funato

Affiliation:International Institute for Integrative Sleep Medicine, University of Tsukuba/Toho University, Faculty of Medicine

Research Title


Elucidation of molecular mechanism of sleep/wakefulness behavior according to newly identified sleep-regulating molecules

01 Research Summary

We are working on the forward genetic research for sleep using randomly mutagenized mice to identify novel genes regulating sleep/wakefulness behavior. Recently, we found that a kinase, SIK3, is involved in determining sleep need and that a nonselective cation channel, NALCN, is required for proper maintenance and termination of REM sleep episodes. Since an important molecule in one research area often turns out to be a multifaceted player working in various research areas, we proceed several projects related to memory, anxiety/depression, social behavior, energy metabolism and ageing.


Yanagisawa & Funato Laboratory

02 Major achievements

Hiromasa Funato*, Chika Miyoshi, Tomoyuki Fujiyama, Takeshi Kanda, Makito Sato, Zhiqiang Wang, Jing Ma, Shin Nakane, Jun Tomita, Aya Ikkyu, Miyo Kakizaki, Noriko Hotta-Hirashima, Satomi Kanno, Haruna Komiya, Fuyuki Asano, Takato Honda, Staci J. Kim, Kanako Harano, Hiroki Muramoto, Toshiya Yonezawa, Seiya Mizuno, Shinichi Miyazaki, Linzi Connor, Vivek Kumar, Ikuo Miura, Tomohiro Suzuki, Atsushi Watanabe, Manabu Abe, Fumihiro Sugiyama, Satoru Takahashi, Kenji Sakimura, Yu Hayashi, Qinghua Liu, Kazuhiko Kume, Shigeharu Wakana, Joseph S Takahashi, Masashi Yanagisawa*. Forward-genetics analysis of sleep in randomly mutagenized mice. Nature, 539, 378-383, 2016 (* corresponding authors)

Hiromasa Funato, Allen L. Tsai, Jon T. Willie, Yasushi Kisanuki, S. Clay Williams, Takeshi Sakurai, Masashi Yanagisawa. Enhanced orexin receptor-2 signaling prevents diet-induced obesity and improves leptin sensitivity. Cell Metabolism 9:64-76, 2009

Hiromasa Funato, Masahiro Yoshimura, Kaoru Kusui, Akira Tamaoka, Kin'ya Ishikawa, Norio Ohkoshi, Kazuhiko Namekata, Riki Okeda, Yasuo Ihara. Quantitation of amyloid ß-protein (Aß) in the cortex during aging and in Alzheimer's disease. American Journal of Pathology 152, 1633-40, 1998

03 Education

1994 Graduated from School of Medicine, Tokyo Medical and Dental University
1995 Research graduate student, University of Tokyo (Prof. Yasuo Ihara)
1998 Graduated from Doctoral Program in Medical Sciences, Tokyo Medical and Dental University
1998 Postdoctoral fellow, JSPS
2001 Resident, Department of Psychiatry, University of Tokyo Hospital
2003 Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry, School of Medicine, Yamaguchi University
2005 Postdoctoral fellow, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, USA
2009 Assistant Professor (Lecturer), Department of Anatomy, School of Medicine, Toho University
2011 Associate Professor, Department of Anatomy, School of Medicine, Toho University
2013 Professor (WPI-IIIS), International Institute for Integrative Sleep Medicine, University of Tokyo
2018 Professor, Department of Anatomy, School of Medicine, Toho University


Why did you become a scientist?

My curiosity drives me to become the one.

When I was in elementary school, I read a book on the era of the great voyage. Since the great voyage at the present time would be space exploration, I wanted to be an astronaut, but the problem was that there was no clear path to become an astronaut. So I changed my mind to and become became a psychiatrist, and now I find myself to be a researcher. There were three turning points.; The first one was that when I was a grad student, I moved to Ihara lab at University of Tokyo seeking for better research environment and an exciting research theme. Professor Ihara is one of researchers who identified tau protein as the major component of neurofibrillary tangle in Alzheimer's disease brains. The second one was my application for a postdoctoral fellow position at Yanagisawa lab, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, that I found in classifieds in "Jikken Igaku". The third was the day when I decided to pick up all long sleeper mice although they could be just an artifact. Who knows what is going to happen tomorrow.

What are the characteristics of your lab?

Originality of research

Since we believe our lab has several strengths and advantages, I am happy to explain in detail to anybody who is interested in our research. Please feel free to contact me anytime. One thing I want to emphasize here is that we are working on what we identified by ourselves. The good thing about this situation is that no one in the world knows the results we gained through our own experiments. This is a very happy situation for researchers. However, considering a current competitive research environment, this situation will not last long, though. By the way, "Yanagisawa/Funato lab " follows very active labs managed by two PIs such as Brown/Goldstein lab and Mango/Kliewer lab in UTSW.

What do you care about at work?

God is in the details.

Details are so important that your attention paid to small thing would have big rewards. Mental stability is also crucial to organize an unprecedented project such as forward genetics research using mice. I respect postdocs, technicians and grad students who perform difficult experiments that I am not able to, I become not able to or I won't be able to.