In Memory of Professor Akira Matsui (1948-2020)

Obituary:Akira Matsui 1948-2020

Ryo Sumazaki, Mureo Kasahara, Kazuo Shiraki

With the loss of Akira Matsui, MD on April 1, 2020, the Japanese and international pediatric community lost one of the great pioneers of pediatric hepatology. From 2007 to 2013 he served as the president of the Japanese Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition (JSPGHAN), and from 2013 to 2018 was nominated as the president of the Asian Pan-Pacific Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition (APPSPGHAN). He also organized the 13th APPSPGHAN congress at Tokyo in 2013.

Akira Matsui graduated from the University of Tokyo in 1975 and specialized with honors in Surgery and Pediatric Surgery at the same university. From 1979 he became a member of the Paediatric Liver Centre in King’s College Hospital as a British Council Scholar under the direction of late Prof. Alex Mowat, and then a research fellow of the Medical Research Council at the Clinical Research Centre, Harrow to study bile acids metabolism in cholestatic liver diseases with the help of Dr. Setchell.

In 1982 he moved to the Pediatric Department of Jichi Medical University and was appointed as Professor, Faculty of Medicine, University of Tsukuba in 1997. He became Director of the hospital at the National Center for Child Health and Development in 2007 up to 2014, the year of his retirement. From 2014 he accepted a professor at St. Luke’s International University.

His original and very important contributions to medicine include:

  1. From 1994 until his very last day, Akira Matsui performed his pioneering work in screening for biliary atresia by stool color card (Lancet 1995; 1:1181, J Pediatr 2015; 166: 897-902, Pediatr Surg Int 2017; 33:1305-1313). The screening method has become widespread in Taiwan, Switzerland, Beijing in China and British Columbia in Canada.
  2. He strongly promoted liver transplantation as a pediatrician, when living-related liver transplantation was in its very early days and developed a world-class unit for pediatric liver transplantation in the National Center for Child Health and Development in collaboration with Dr. Kasahara. Many children with life-threatening liver disorders were admitted to the Center from all over Japan and the Asian countries.
  3. He also made notable contributions to expand the knowledge concerning molecular pathology of many liver and viral diseases, including Allagile Syndrome (Nat Genet 2004; 36:83-87), Epstein-Barr virus (Blood 2001; 98: 1268) and Hepatitis G Virus (Lancet 1998; 352: 1308-10). He always saw the necessity for research as a basis for clinical knowledge of the disease processes in children and was most proud of his work concerning helping many sick children. His death presents a great loss to those he helped and to world pediatric gastroenterologists.

He is survived by his beloved wife, Tomoko, and three children. Together with them, many friends and colleagues will cherish the wonderful memory of Akira Matsui.

We shall never forget Akira Matsui.

Ryo Sumazaki <>

Director of Ibaraki Children’s Hospital


Mureo Kasahara <>

Director, Organ Transplantation Center,

National Center for Child Health and Development


Kazuo Shiraki <>

Emeritus Professor of Pediatrics, Tottori University

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