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Tribute to Professor Naomich Arima

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I met Professor Arima during the 12th International Conference on Human Retrovirology June 22 to 25, 2005 convened in Montego Bay, a tourist resort on the North Coast of Jamaica. During that conference, I also met his post-doctoral research fellow at the time who had made a most intriguing presentation about research being conducted in Professor Arima’s lab; as we say in Japan jitsuni omoshirokata (very interesting). Jamaica, like Japan, has a high prevalence of the human T-cell lymphotropic virus type I (HTLV-1), with about six percent of Jamaicans harbouring this virus. Ninety-five percent of the carriers of this virus develop no symptoms, but a few go on to develop a leukemia or cancer of the blood or a paralyzing disease called HTLV-1 associated myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis (HAM/TSP), simultaneously discovered and described by Japanese and Jamaican clinicians nearly three decades ago. Interestingly, Japanese patients with this virus, if they do develop disease, will tend to develop the leukemia; but Jamaican patients would tend to develop the paralysis instead, and this has been ascribed to the genetic differences that impact the way our bodies respond to this unique virus. Two years later, I joined Professor Arima’s laboratory in Kagoshima City, Southern Japan as a Kenkyusei or research student with the intention of spending 18 months, but was inspired by him to enrol in the Doctor of Philosophy programme, spending some five years in Japan. We wrote papers together, did experiments together, and shared a patent for a novel anticancer drug we discovered together. He is an intellectual giant of a man who is by far one of the most humble people I have ever known.


18 May, 2015
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e-Published: 27 Nov, 2015
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