Japanese professor working to bring hope to sick cats and their owners

Domestic cats are very susceptible to irreversible chronic kidney disease and often die from the disease after long periods of suffering.

Toru Miyazaki, 59, a professor at the University of Tokyo Graduate School of Medicine, is investigating a health problem that plagues cat owners and lovers, and of course cats themselves, and is now working on a remedy.

He’s a medic for humans, not a veterinarian. After graduating from the university’s medical faculty in 1986, Miyazaki began working as a hospital doctor, but later devoted himself to basic research to clarify the causes of many incurable human diseases and to seek therapies.

Miyazaki is the author of the book “Neko ga 30-sai made Ikiru Hi” (“The Day Cats Can Live Up to 30”), which the Japanese news agency Jiji Press will publish in August.

As a senior researcher at the Basel Institute for Immunology in Switzerland since 1995, Miyazaki discovered a unique protein that is abundantly found in human blood but was not known and called it Apoptosis Inhibitor of Macrophage (AIM). AIM supports the survival of macrophages, a type of immune cell that protects the human body during the first defense against pathogens such as germs by devouring them.

After nearly 10 years of intensive research, Miyazaki made it clear that AIM facilitates the repair of various diseases, including obesity, fatty liver, liver cancer, and kidney disease, by promoting the phagocytic removal of multiple internal or self-derived biological wastes by macrophages . Miyazaki occasionally examined the blood of several animal species for AIM and, to his surprise, discovered that unlike other species, feline AIM does not work specifically.

Toru Miyazaki, Professor at the Graduate School of Medicine, University of Tokyo | WITH KINDNESS FROM TORU MIYAZAKI / VIA JIJI

After Miyazaki learned that most old cats have severe kidney disease, the idea suddenly occurred to him that this was likely due to the malfunction of feline AIM.

The pathology of kidney disease in cats is characterized by the obstruction of the renal tubules by deposits of dead cells and other exudates from the body, reducing glomerular filtration and inducing chronic inflammation, which leads to the gradual destruction of the organ.

Further research by Miyazaki found that AIM induced the removal of such tubular, blocking waste and facilitated kidney repair, but feline AIM is incapable of this effect.

He injected recombinant AIM protein intravenously into a 15-year-old cat with end-stage renal disease who had only a week left to live. The cat was able to get up after treatment and lived more than a year after receiving regular AIM.

According to veterinarians, cats can live to be up to 30 years old if treated with functional AIM, such as mouse or human AIM, from a young age.

Believing that eliminating patient suffering is the doctor’s only job, whether it be humans or cats, Miyazaki started a sponsorship company that helped him develop an AIM drug for kidney disease in cats .

However, just before the clinical trials to gain approval from the Japanese government began, COVID-19 broke out and hit the economy catastrophically, making it impossible for the sponsor to continue supporting Miyazaki’s project.

As he continues his tireless efforts to raise funds to restart the Cat AIM project, Miyazaki wants cat owners around the world to know that there is a way to cure their pets of kidney disease.

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PHOTO GALLERY (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

  • Toru Miyazaki, Professor at the Graduate School of Medicine, University of Tokyo |  WITH KINDLY FROM TORU MIYAZAKI / VIA JIJI