• Jiji


Domestic cats are highly susceptible to irreversible chronic kidney disease and often die from the illness after prolonged suffering.

Toru Miyazaki, 59, a professor at the Graduate School of Medicine of the University of Tokyo, has got to the bottom of a health issue that torments cat owners and lovers, and cats themselves of course, and is now working on the development of a remedy.

He is a medical doctor for humans, not a veterinarian. After graduating from the university’s Faculty of Medicine in 1986, Miyazaki started as a hospital doctor but later chose to devote himself to basic research to clarify the causes of and seek therapies for many incurable diseases in humans.

Miyazaki is the author of a book, “Neko ga 30-sai made Ikiru Hi” (“The Day When Cats Can Live to 30”), that is set to be released in August by Japanese news agency Jiji Press.

As a principal investigator at the Basel Institute for Immunology in Switzerland since 1995, Miyazaki discovered a unique protein that exists in human blood at a high level, but had not been known, and named it Apoptosis Inhibitor of Macrophage (AIM). AIM supports the survival of macrophage, an immune cell type that protects the human body at the first defense from pathogens such as germs by engulfing them.

After devoting himself to intensive research for nearly 10 years, Miyazaki clarified that AIM facilitates the repair of various diseases, including obesity, fatty liver, liver cancer and kidney ailments, by promoting the phagocytic removal of multiple inner or self-derived biological wastes by macrophages. Miyazaki occasionally investigated the blood of several animal species for AIM and discovered to his surprise that cat AIM does not function specifically, unlike in other species.

Toru Miyazaki, professor at the Graduate School of Medicine of the University of Tokyo | COURTESY OF TORU MIYAZAKI / VIA JIJI
Toru Miyazaki, professor at the Graduate School of Medicine of the University of Tokyo | COURTESY OF TORU MIYAZAKI / VIA JIJI

After Miyazaki learned that most aged cats suffer severe renal disease, the idea suddenly hit him that this was probably due to the dysfunction of cat AIM.

The pathology of kidney disease in cats is characterized by the obstruction of renal tubules by debris from dead cells and other wastes from the body, and thereby reduces glomerular filtration and induces chronic inflammation, resulting in gradual destruction of the organ.

Further research by Miyazaki found that AIM induces the removal of such tubular obstructing wastes and facilitates the kidney repair, but cat AIM is not capable of this action.

He injected recombinant AIM protein intravenously to a 15-year-old cat with end-stage renal disease that had been given only a week to live. The cat became able to get up after the treatment and then lived more than a year after being given AIM on a regular basis.

According to veterinarians, cats may be able to live up to about 30 years if they start to be treated with functional AIM, such as mouse or human AIM, from an early age.

In the belief that eliminating the suffering of patients is the sole doctor’s mission, regardless of whether they are humans or cats, Miyazaki started to develop an AIM drug for cat renal disease with a sponsor company that helped him.

Just before starting the clinical trials to obtain the approval by the Japanese government, however, COVID-19 broke out and hit the economy catastrophically, making it impossible for the sponsor to support Miyazaki’s project any longer.

While continuing his unstinting efforts to collect funds to restart the cat AIM project, Miyazaki wants cat owners all over the world to know that there is a way to cure their pets of renal disease.

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