Dr. Abe Takeshi, Senior Researcher
- Plant Function Research Institute
forest insects wasps are at the head of the food chain, it takes
only 4-5 wasps to kill more than 10,000 honeybees. Senior Researcher
- Dr Abe, discovered that the secret of this very unusual stamina
stems from wasp larvae, he isolated and identified the various
ingredients and discovered that the essential components comprised
of a very unusual mixture of amino acids. After applying for a
patent on the ingredients in 1989, Dr Abe and Meiji created a
joint venture in September 1995, and started producing an amino
acid drink called "VAAM". This product was initially
targeted at Olympic and national topflight athletes who after
using it obtained greater results. Now its target market has expanded
to include general sports orientated people, dieters and sports
drink lovers all of whom wish to obtain these benefits.
Nerve Research to Nutriment Research on Wasps
Why did you choose the wasp for your research material?
A: About 20 years ago, after returning from NIH
in the US, I began wondering about what type of research I could
become involved in. It was during this time that nerve research
was becoming more prevalent in the US. This intrigued me, so I
decided to take up a post at RIKEN Institute. It was there I decided
to study the actual venom of various poisonous insects. I chose
wasps as the subject material for my research as there were no
large types of wasps in western countries.
When I began this research I was only working with a small common
wasp, I was unaware that seven different varieties of wasp existed
in Japan. When I initially encountered the largest size of these
seven varieties, I was so surprised by their size and unexpected
strength. I remember one day, we went out to capture some of these
wasps or one of their nests, and one of my students was stung
so badly that we had to abandon the activity and in the middle
of the night had to find a pharmacy to buy some antihistamine.
we managed to capture some of this variety of wasp and discovered
that its venom is four times greater than the wasps used in my
initial studies. "Its great", I said, and so I began
concentrating on this type of wasp, and in 1981 I isolated one
of the ingredients of the wasp’s venom. I named it "MANDARA
Toxin or MDTX". The effect of this toxin is to block the
natrium/sodium channels in the nervous system, much like that
of tetrodotoxin found in globefish venom. During this period I
also found "JOROU spider toxin or GSTX" from the silk
spider (Jorou-gumo in Japanese).
How did you find the nutritive liquid of wasp larvae?
A: A wasp’s sting can sometimes causes
death, so collecting wasps is to begin defying death. So I began
to research their nature in an effort to avoid being stung, it
was during this stage that I began to notice some strange things.
Firstly wasps despite being on the top of the insect food chain,
are very communal and make hives containing thousands of insects,
and secondly wasps fly between 70-80 kms per day foraging for
food before returning to the nest. Adult wasps have small gullets,
like a piece of string, thus they can only carry small amounts
of fluid, so how do they get the strength and stamina to fly such
long distances? (If they were the size of humans they could fly
from Tokyo to Nagoya).
I found a
nest and took it back to the lab for observation; there I discovered
that every time something touches the mouth of the larvae, the
larvae secretes a clear liquid which adult wasps then drink. I
analysed this liquid and found that the ingredients were not peptide
or protein as I had expected, but an amino acid, which meant that
wasps were better at ingestion than humans. The wasp’s amino
acid contained 17 of the known 20 kinds of amino acid protein.
It contained not only internally produced essential amino acids,
but also a lot of inessential aminos also produced internally
but not previously considered greatly in nutrition. I already
knew that the other five varieties of wasps had similar compositions
and this lead to the other question of "How does this nutritive
fat and avoiding the production of fatigue bi-products like lactic
How did you confirm the function of this nutritive liquid?
A: I theorised about this function from their
biology/physiology and experimented. First of all, I hypothesised
about the structure of this stamina. I estimated that the wasp
larvae’s nutrient fluids directly relive fatigue through
muscular exercise. I then experimented using mice and various
energy producing solutions. VAMM (which is the same amino acid
derived from wasp larvae, amino acid nutritive having a different
texture to VAMM; casein amino acid, glucose solution and distilled
water. Different mice were given different solutions and made
to swim for thirty minuets or until drowning occurred. The mouse
that had been given VAMM swam much longer than the others, over
an hour longer. After checking the lactic acid and glucose levels
inside the blood stream, the VAMM mouse displayed very low lactic
acid levels, and the levels of glucose hadn’t gone down
significantly. Usually when we begin to exercise the body burns
glycogen and glucose; this produces lactic acid further raising
the body’s acidic levels. High acidic levels causes tiredness
and prevents muscular constrictive motions causing cramping of
the muscles. According to the result of many experiments, VAMM
reduces the production of lactic acid, reduces the burning of
glucose for energy and promotes the burning of body fat. VAMM
also stabilises the balance of amino acids inside the blood stream,
which change due to exercise.
The next step,
was researching the effects on humans, I received data that VAAM
controls and reduces fatigue caused by exercise, but increases
liver function and diet effectiveness. For instance when we run
a marathon, ("GOT" [glutamic-oxaloacetic transaminase]
and "GPT" [glutamic-pyruvic transaminase] levels which
demonstrates how much stress the liver is under), the GOT level
is between 20-30 prior to running, but it raises to over 100 after
running the marathon. If VAAM is taken prior to or during, the
marathon then the body can hold down these levels. The data clearly
shows that VAAM can also control the reduction of liver function
from taking too much alcohol.
with a wide variety of companies from Patent Application to production
Did you apply for a patent immediately after you found VAAM’s
special composition and function?
A: No, I didn’t. VAAM research started
about 10 years ago, during a time where a lot of interesting things
were being discovered. Shin-Nittetsu’s, (a Japanese company),
Bio Technology division was interested in our research. They had
supplied research funding and staff for many years. I appreciated
their support and together we applied for an ingredients patent
in 1989. After that I got some advice from an "intellectual
section", and in association with them we applied for numerous
other patents and got them. However Shin-Nittetsu is an investment
partner only and Riken is responsible for the day-to-day manufacturing
decisions and processes.
How did you make VAAM a product?
A: When reports of our research were published
on "Riken News", various interested food and amino acid
manufacturers sent their employees to our research lab. As news
of our research filtered out other sectors of the food, drink,
and drug/medical manufacturers visited us, and we eventually entered
into an arrangement to manufacture VAAM as a product. We worked
well together and over the next two years managed to solve many
of the basic problems of toxicity, until only the problems of
taste and cost remained. We found that all acids (with the exception
of glutaminic acid), has a very bitter taste which is difficult
to change with the addition of juice or something. The next problem
was associated with cost. The effective amount of VAAM was 2-3
gms in a can of water, which cost us around 20 yen. Normal soft
drink cost was 20-30 sen (100sen=1yen); we couldn’t find
any way to make a profitable product either on the taste or cost
side. After this many manufacturers gave up trying to make VAAM
was a company who has made powdered milk as amino acid product
for a long time. They were aware of our problems, after early
intervention by them, together we managed to find a way to solve
these problems. Finally we made grapefruit tasting sports drink.
"VAAM" started selling in 1995.
How do you feel now your result of research is in shops?
A: I’m so happy because the goal of science
is to improve the welfare and life style of all people, and research
aims to do this. My research has realized this end and that’s
why I’m so happy about it. It doesn’t often happen
either. A while after we started selling VAAM, I received a telephone
call from Meiji where they had made deal with convenience stores
to sell VAAM. I went to many convenience stores around my house
and if they had VAAM, I bought 4-5 bottles from each store.
Is there any skill to make product perfect?
A: We had a lot of problems out side of research
to make "VAAM" but the important thing is that we should
take and try to solve them seriously as a part of your research.
In making relationships with too many manufactures, the information
can sometimes get mixed up, so we have to continually adjust it.
Of course, we can’t relate each company confidences to any
other company, but we teach to them not to waste both time and
money. After all, the most important thing is to generate good
teamwork in any situation, and "VAAM " is one great
example of excellent teamwork.
patents related to VAAM: Muscle persistence agent, nutrition
sthenia agent, transfusion agent, alimentation agent, recovery
of tiredness agent, lactic agent formation adjustment agent.