Dr. Ndubuisi Samuel Machebe
Cloning of Domestic Animals
JSPS Postdoctoral Fellow, Kindai University, 2014-present
Lecturer, University of Nigeria, Nigeria, 2005-present
Ph.D. (Animal Reproductive Physiology), University of Nigeria, Nigeria, 2010
Hailing from Nigeria, Dr. Machebe is conducting research with his host professor Dr. Yoko Kato at Kindai University under a JSPS Postdoctoral Fellowship. We asked him to tell us about his research and life in Japan.
Q: What are you currently researching under your JSPS fellowship?
My current research conducted in the Laboratory of Animal Reproduction at Kindai University is centered on the production of porcine cloned preimplantation embryos. I am investigating somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) using stem cells as the nuclear donor cells.
Q: When and how did you decide upon your research subject?
I became interested in my research subject in 2007
when I was still conducting my PhD research
with pigs in the Department of Animal Science
at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. My research
goal was to improve the reproductive efficiency
of female pigs by altering the energy and protein
contents in their feed ration. I chose the pig as
my model animal because I was convinced
that any improvement in their reproductive
potential could not only boost the supply of
animal protein to many households in Nigeria
and other developing countries but also expand
employment opportunities for young people
in these countries. The pig is a highly prolific
domestic farm animal with a short generation
interval and efficient carcass yield.
That year, I read about the pioneering work advanced by Dr. Shinya Yamanaka and his colleagues, reported in 2006. These researchers successfully reprogrammed adult cells into induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells. With that impetus, I became very interested in porcine iPS cell research because of its tremendous potential for numerous applications in agriculture, medicine and biotechnology.
Q: How did you get to know your Japanese host researcher?
I first learned about my Japanese host researcher,
Prof. Yoko Kato, when searching the Internet
for Japanese professors who might host me as
a postdoctoral fellow. In that process, I found
that Prof. Kato and her research team at Kindai
University had produced the first cloned calf
using a SCNT method in 1998. That greatly
stimulated my interest and desire to conduct my
postdoctoral research in her laboratory.
I was lucky to have two colleagues from Nigeria conducting research in the same department as Prof. Kato. They highly recommended me to her laboratory for a postdoctoral fellowship. With their support, Prof. Kato and I immediately initiated the application process for a JSPS fellowship.
Q: Did you have any other reasons for choosing Japan to pursue your research?
My dream and desire as a scientist has always
been to make meaningful scientific contributions
in response to the numerous unanswered questions
that I come across when studying textbooks on
animal physiology. In pursuing this quest, I have
always desired to work with the best and most
well-known researchers in the world irrespective
of the location of their laboratories on the globe.
I saw the light and made my choice of Japan
when I found out about the pioneering work on
iPS cells and the production of the first cloned
bovine animals done by Japanese researchers.
That greatly stimulated my interest and desire to
carry out my research at a laboratory in Japan.
Also, Kindai University is well known as an excellent institution of higher learning where a sound education can be acquired by both Japanese and overseas students. The university boasts a high level of expertise and facilities in many fields of science and technology, including agriculture.
Q: What have you achieved so far under your JSPS fellowship?
My research achievements have included the
successful production of cloned porcine embryos
using porcine iPS cells and fibroblast cells as
nuclei donors. Based on my findings, I observed
that there is no difference between the in-vitro
development rate of porcine cloned embryos
produced by somatic cell nuclear transfer with
fibroblast cells and that when iPS cells are used
as nuclei donor cells. This research work has
already been completed and was presented at the
First International Symposium on the Future of
Nuclear Transfer and Nuclear Reprogramming,
held on 10 March 2016 at Yamanashi University,
In another experiment, I evaluated the impact of pre-exposure before fusion and activation of nuclear transferred oocytes to a plant extract called phytohaemagglutinin (PHA) on the developmental efficiency of porcine cloned embryos. I found that the developmental competence of porcine cloned embryos could be enhanced by incubation in PHA for five minutes prior to fusion and activation. That research has also been concluded and the findings presented at the 121st Meeting of the Japanese Society of Animal Science (JSAS), held 27-30 March 2016 at Nippon Veterinary and Life Science University in Tokyo. I am happy to mention that I am now a registered member of JSAS and the Japan Society for Research and Development (JSRD).
Q: What do you think of life in Japan-its culture and customs?
Life in Japan is to me a blend of tradition and modern lifestyles. I honestly find it difficult sometimes to fully comprehend the underlying essence of some of the culture and customs practiced by the Japanese, such as wearing kimono, using ohashi (chopsticks), performing the tea ceremony, and holding festivals to local gods amidst Japan’s modern setting and lifestyle. All the same, I realized that these cultural practices and traditions are what give the Japanese a happy, polite, peaceful, gentle, and accommodating way of living.
Q: May we ask what you plan to do after your fellowship ends?
My simple answer is “continue my research!” With sincere gratitude extended to JSPS and people of Japan, after my two-year fellowship ends, I have been granted another 10 months of research funding to collaborate with my host researcher, Prof. Kato. This extended research period is centered on a technology transfer termed “Development of simple CO₂ incubator-free system for in-vitro production of pig embryos.” This system, when successfully developed, will enable me to conduct research and training on embryo production and nuclear transfer at my home university in Nigeria at relatively low cost, while applying the skills I’ve acquired through my research experience in Prof. Kato’s laboratory.
Q: How would you like to contribute to social development in your home country?
I suppose that by “social” development you
mean development centered on people. So, I
intend to conduct practical training of students
and researchers in animal science and other
related research areas, while applying and using
my acquired skills, knowledge and techniques
in enhancing Nigerian research in animal
reproductive biotechnology. By virtue of my
participation in this JSPS fellowship program, I
have built a strong scientific network with many
well-known Japanese researchers in different
laboratories around Japan. Using this network, I
intend to encourage and assist my students and
young Nigerian researchers who may desire to
visit Japan to do research with Japanese mentors
Finally, please permit me to use this opportunity to reiterate my appreciation to JSPS and people of Japan for supporting this exceptional postdoctoral research program. I could not have achieved my research goals without the expert advice and caring guidance provided by my host scientist, Prof. Kato, who always encouraged me to work through difficult times while providing me with a serene atmosphere for conducting my research in her lab. I also appreciate the generous support and help given to me by Dr. Tetsuya Tani, Dr. Koji Yoshioka and all the members of our laboratory.
After our interview, Dr. Machebe took us around the facilities of Kindai University. Coming from Nigeria, where the blazing sun reigns, it was only natural yet rather amusing to hear him say, “Gosh, it’s cold today!” on a warming springtime afternoon in Nara. During our stroll around the facilities with Dr. Machebe, we were impressed by his calm demeanor that contrasted with his vibrant enthusiasm for scientific discovery. As he continues working on the development of an incubator-free system for in-vitro production of pig embryos, we look forward to his results contributing to the solution of the global food-supply problem. Though it may be colder in Japan than Nigeria, we are sure that Dr. Machebe’s burning passion for the work will continue firing the kiln of his important research at Kindai University.