The Mitsui & Co. Environment Fund

Introduction to Grant Projects

Alliance for Research on North Africa (ARENA), University of Tsukuba Professor Hiroko Isoda

Survey of useful biological resources within marginal arid land areas in North Africa

Research grant

Project Description

Surveys of biological resources have tended to focus on rain forests. It has been found, however, that plants living in arid areas contain, as an adaptation to a harsh environment, a considerable quantity of useful substances such as antioxidants. The marginal land of arid regions in Northern Africa has largely been overlooked by such surveys, despite the presence of a diverse range of unique organisms there. Noting this situation, the researchers surveyed the characteristics of arid lands in North Africa, taking note of such aridity-contributing factors as temperature, soil salinity, water, sunlight and wind. And, with regards to organisms with a strong resistance to this environment, we also surveyed vegetation distributions and microbial resources. Additional efforts were directed to a survey of market patterns for medicinal and other plants of North African origin. Using those results to focus our attention on a select few such substances, we comprehensively analyzed them for composition and subjected them to multidimensional functional searches, compiling our results in a database. ARENA operates in Africa under the permission of governments there. We have a collaborative framework in place and conduct research together with universities and government organizations in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Algeria, and Morroco.

Preservation of biodiversity and ecosystem
Grant year
FY2007 Research Grants
Grant term
3 years
April 2008 - March 2011
Grant amount
37,550,000 yen
Activity region
North Africa
Plant survey in Tunisia

Overview of the Organization

Professor Hiroko Isoda
Professor Hiroko Isoda
Specialist fields
Exploitation of useful organisms; environmental safety assessment; animal cell engineering
Affiliated academic societies
The Japanese Association for Arid Land Studies; Japan Society for Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Agrochemistry; The Japanese Biochemical Society; Japan Association for Animal Cell Technology; Japan Society for Food Engineering
Graduated with a Bachelor of Agriculture in 1985. Became a researcher at The University of Tsukuba from 1985-1991. Took a position at Snow Brand Milk Products Co., Ltd, and then in 1995 until 1996 became a Research student at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. In 1997 entered a Ph.D. program at the Graduate School of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Tsukuba, and became a Research Associate in 1997 at University of Tsukuba Institute of Biological Science. Obtained a Ph. D. (agriculture), University of Tsukuba in 1998, and took the post in 2002 of Research Fellow, National Institute for Environmental Sciences. Became an Assistant Professor in 2004 at the University of Tsukuba Institute of Agricultural and Forest Engineering (agriculture and forestry; Alliance for Research on North Africa). Became a Professor at the University of Tsukuba (University of Tsukuba Graduate School of Life and Environmental Sciences; Alliance for Research on North Africa) in 2007. Was a 2004 award recipient from the Japan Association for Arid Land Studies
WEB site
Collaborating researchers
Yukuo ABE, Professor, University of Tsukuba; Kenichi SAEKI, Assistant, University of Tsukuba; Mitsuteru IRIE, Researcher, University of Tsukuba; Junkyu HAN, same; Parida YAMADA, same; Kiyokazu KAWADA, same.
Research record
Research on the functional analysis and effective utilization of useful organism resources in arid areas; Research on the functional analysis and environmental safety assessment of food components by cell bioassaying
  • (1) Inhibitory effect of various Tunisian olive oils on chemical mediator release and cytokine production by basophilic cells, 2008, Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 116,279-287
  • (2) Stress response of mammalian cells incubated with landfill leachate, Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, 2007,27, 5, 1084-1092
  • (3) Antimelanogenesis effect of Tunisian herb Thymelaea hirsuta extract on B16 murine melanoma cells, Experimental Dermatology, 2007, 16,977-984
  • (4) Induction of Growth Inhibition and Differentiation of Human Leukemia HL-60 Cells by a Tunisian Gerboui Olive Leaf Extract, Bioscience, Biotechnology, Biochemistry, 71 (5),1306-1312, 2007.