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Research Projects

Quick Links: Tap the mentor’s name for a quick link to the research project description or simply scroll down to each of the projects.

  • Dr. Shugeng Cao - Anti-Cancer and Anti-Bacterial Agents from microorganisms and Herbal medicine
  • Dr. Leng Chang & Dr. Supakit Wongwiwantthananukit - Screening of Hawaiian Medicinal Plants and Marine Algae for anticancer activities using Streptomyces Kinase Inhibitor Assay / Evaluation of Hawaiian Medicinal Plants in the Treatment of Infectious Diseases
  • Dr. Abhijit Date - Development of nano-scale formulations for natural products; Green synthesis of inorganic nanoparticles using plant extracts; Development of nanomedicines for the prevention or treatment of cancer and infectious diseases
  • Dr. Scott Ferguson - Impact of cell-free hemoglobin on skeletal muscle vascular control
  • Dr. Lincoln Gotshalk - Physical Activity and Cancer Survivors; Menopause and Bone Health of Hawaiian Women
  • Dr. Kerri Inglis - ʻOihana lapaʻau: a history of Hawaiian medical practices through analysis of Hawaiian medical texts
  • Dr. Susan Jarvi - Angiostrongyliasis (Rat Lungworm Disease): Education, outreach and research
  • Dr. Dana-Lynn Koʻomoa-Lange - Investigating the mechanisms that promote Cancer Progression: a Native Hawaiian Perspective
  • Dr. Ingo Koʻomoa-Lange - Key mechanisms of ion channel signaling in cancer drug resistance and the tumor microenvironment
  • Dr. Lynn Morrison - Occupational Stress and Animal Welfare in Humane Societies
  • Dr. Dianqing Sun - Discovery, Synthesis, and Evaluation of Antibacterial and Anti-Cancer Agents in Natural Products
  • Dr. Charles Simmons - X-ray structure determination of medicinal natural product compounds
  • Dr. Ghee Tan - Endophytic fungi of Hawaiian medicinal plants: a sustainable drug discovery approach and a revolutionary source of new drug leads
  • Dr. Tracy Wiegner - Staphylococcus and MRSA in Hawaiian Coastal waters

Dr. Shugeng Cao: Anti-Cancer and Anti-Bacterial Agents from microorganisms and Herbal medicine

Dr. Shugeng CaoDepartment: Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy

Synopsis: Dr. Cao is examining bacteria and endophytic fungi isolated from Native Hawaiian plants as anti-cancer and antibacterial agents. His lab is also studying traditional herbal medicine.

Skills students will acquire: Use of modern spectroscopic techniques such as HPLC (High Performance Liquid Chromatography), MS (Mass Spectometry), and NMR (Nuclear Magnetic Resonance).

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Dr. Leng Chee Chang & Dr. Supakit Wongwiwatthananukit: Screening of Hawaiian Medicinal Plants and Marine Algae for anticancer activities using Streptomyces Kinase Inhibitor Assay \ Evaluation of Hawaiian Medicinal Plants in the Treatment of Infectious Diseases

Dr. Leng Chee Chang and Dr. Supakit WongwiwatthananukitFaculty: Dr. Leng Chee Chang & Dr. Supakit Wongwiwatthananukit

Department: Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy

Synopsis: An evaluation of Hawaiian traditional medicine (lāʻau lapaʻau) may prove beneficial in reducing the health disparities seen among Native Hawaiians. In particular, this could be accomplished by demonstrating the efficacy of traditional medicine and/or identifying agents from Hawaiian medicinal and marine plants in the treatment of infectious and cancer diseases. In particular, the usage of ‘Uhaloa in traditional medicine should be scientifically evaluated and access to its use as an alternative treatment for infectious diseases increased. The non-toxic antibacterial efficacy of edible limu kohu warrants further study.

Skills students will acquire: Extraction and isolation of compounds found in natural products, spectroscopy (NMR and mass spectrometry), and analytical chemistry, antioxidant and antibacterial assays, statistical analysis, writing manuscript

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Dr. Abhijit Date

Dr. Abhijit DateDepartment: Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy

Project 1 Title: Development of nano-scale formulations for natural products

Project 2 Title: Green synthesis of inorganic nanoparticles using plant extracts

Project 3 Title: Development of nanomedicines for the prevention or treatment of cancer and infectious diseases

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Dr. Scott Ferguson: Impact of cell-free hemoglobin on skeletal muscle vascular control

Dr. Scott FergusonDepartment: Kinesiology and Exercise Sciences

Synopsis: Nitric oxide plays a crucial role in the regulation of vascular and metabolic control, particularly during exercise and its reduction has been linked to the impaired functional capacity emblematic of many patient populations. In this regard, cell-free hemoglobin (Hb), associated with hemolytic diseases like sickle cell disease (SCD), rapidly scavenges NO, which could lead to compromised skeletal muscle vascular and microvascular function. The work proposed herein brings together measurements of microvascular function with comprehensive physiology and is designed to answer the crucial question: Does cell-free Hb result in impaired skeletal muscle vascular control during exercise, and if so, can we unravel the contribution of microvascular abnormalities to this dysfunction and determine an efficacious means to attenuate the adverse effects?

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Dr. Lincoln Gotshalk

Dr. Lincoln GotshalkDepartment: Kinesiology & Exercise Sciences

Project 1 Title: Physical Activity and Cancer Survivors

Project 2 Title: Menopause and Bone Health of Hawaiian Women

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Dr. Kerri Inglis: ʻOihana lapaʻau: a history of Hawaiian medical practices through analysis of Hawaiian medical texts

Dr. Kerri InglisDepartment: History

Synopsis: This research will focus on the history of Hawaiian medical practices through the analysis of several Hawaiian medical texts – held in the Hawaiʻi State Archives and Bishop Museum archives – seeking to understand Hawaiian concepts of health, disease, and medicine as demonstrated in the manuscripts of kāhuna lāʻau lapaʻau (Hawaiian medical practitioners). Project will also include a synthesis of reliable secondary texts on Hawaiian medical practices.

Skills students will acquire: Student researcher will acquire skills in archival research, analysis of primary documents, synthesis of research and materials, and communicating findings in oral and written forms of communication, along with knowledge and insights into early Hawaiian medical thought and practices. Student researcher will eventually be involved in a lab component related to the project as well.

Preference: Ability in the Hawaiian language is an asset (not required)

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Dr. Susan Jarvi: Angiostrongyliasis (Rat Lungworm Disease): Education, outreach and research

Dr. Susan JarviDepartment: Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy

Synopsis: Dr. Jarvi has been conducting research to gain a better understanding of host-parasite interactions using the avian malaria-Hawaiian honeycreeper model, and the Angiostrongylus cantonensis- rodent model. We are conducting multiple studies to help reduce the risk of humans becoming infected with the rat lungworm parasite including, a vaccine trial, development of molecular-based and antibody-based diagnostics, estimating human exposure, and finding ways to reduce parasite transmission.

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Dr. Dana-Lynn Koʻomoa-Lange: Investigating the mechanisms that promote Cancer Progression: a Native Hawaiian Perspective

Dr. Dana-Lynn Koʻomoa-LangeDepartment: Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy

Synopsis: High-risk Neuroblastoma (NB), an extracranial pediatric tumor, is associated with poor prognosis. Dr. Ko’omoa-Lange is investigating the genetic mechanisms that make NB so aggressive and develop drug-resistance. Knowing more about these mechanisms will enhance efforts to develop more effective treatments for high-risk NB. This project also investigates the Native Hawaiian perspective of health and well-being and alternative treatments for advanced stage cancers.

Skills students will acquire: Mammalian cell culture, assays, western blot analysis, and laser scanning microscopy.

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Dr. Ingo Koʻomoa-Lange: Key mechanisms of ion channel signaling in cancer drug resistance and the tumor microenvironment

Dr. Ingo Koʻomoa-LangeDepartment: Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy

Synopsis: Neuroblastoma (NB) is an extra-cranial solid tumor that occurs mainly in infants and children. NB is difficult to treat due to the development of multi-drug resistance resulting in lack of response to current therapies and aggressive disease progression. The development of resistance in the NB cells also involves the response of immune cells and the tumor microenvironment (TME), which contribute to treatment failure. The objectives of this project are to identify the molecular components of ion channel signaling pathways within the TME that can be targeted towards effective treatment of NB.

Skills students will acquire: Live cell calcium imaging, confocal imaging, patch-clamp electrophysiology, mammalian cell culture.

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Dr. Lynn Morrison: Occupational Stress and Animal Welfare in Humane Societies

Dr. Lynn MorrisonDepartment: Anthropology

Synopsis: East Hawaiʻi has a high rate of animal neglect and abandonment, and lack of spaying/neutering, resulting in a euthanasia rate of 14,000 animals per year. The Keaʻau employees euthanize 34 animals per day on average. This study will compare the stress levels of the employees at the Keaʻau site to those at the Kona Humane Society where there is a much lower euthanasia rate and higher animal adoption rate. Stress is measured through blood pressure, cortisol, and a battery of survey instruments. Unique to this study is the incorporation of animal welfare by examining the cortisol levels of dogs as a measure of stress.

Skills students will acquire: Monitoring blood pressure, administering surveys, and obtaining hair samples from both human and dog participant for cortisol assays. Assist in downloading equipment, entering data, and coding qualitative interviews. SHARP student will also assist with cortisol assays in co-PI Dr. Dana-Lynne Koʻomoa-Lange’s lab.

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Dr. Charles Simmons: X-ray structure determination of medicinal natural product compounds

Dr. Charles SimmonsDepartment: Chemistry

Synopsis: The X-ray diffraction lab at UH Hilo, which is a unique facility in the Pacific Rim Basin, has for many years collaborated with chemists in the Daniel K. Inouye Pharmaceutical Sciences program, particularly with Prof. Leng Chee Chang. The X-ray lab has determined the structures of many potentially interesting medicinal compounds. The structural results are subsequently correlated with anti-bacterial and anti-cancer studies conducted by Dr. Chang and her collaborators. FDA approval of a drug requires its complete X-ray structure determination, which our lab can provide. The lab also encourages graduate students in the program to learn the basics of X-ray crystallography, as stressed in the NSF grant that funded the new X-ray diffractometer.

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Dr. Dianqing Sun: Discovery, Synthesis, and Evaluation of Antibacterial and Anti-Cancer Agents in Natural Products

Dr. Dianqing SunDepartment: Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy

Synopsis: Dr. Sun’s research program focuses on discovery and development of antibacterial and anticancer agents using small molecule-guided and natural product-inspired approaches. Specifically, this project will provide an exceptional opportunity engaging the undergraduate and graduate students, particularly those who are currently underrepresented in biomedical research, to participate meritorious research and to help strengthen the research environment at UH Hilo.

Skills students will acquire: Drug discovery, bioanalytical research, and state-of-the-art instruments such as NMR, HPLC, LC-MS, and microwave parallel synthesizer

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Dr. Ghee Tan: Endophytic fungi of Hawaiian medicinal plants: a sustainable drug discovery approach and a revolutionary source of new drug leads

Dr. Ghee TanDepartment: Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy

Synopsis: As a result of an intimate (albeit cryptic) relationship, endophytic fungi and plants share metabolic pathways that mediate secondary metabolite production. Resident foliar endophytes will be isolated and purified from Hawaiian medicinal plants. The endophytes will be identified by the amplification of the internal transcribed spacer region of the 5.8s rRNA followed by PCR and DNA sequencing. Organic fungal extracts will be tested for activity against major cancers that afflict humans. Work on endophytes may be initiated using only a few fresh leaves from host medicinal plants. Therefore, the validation of ethnomedicines, and full scale drug discovery may be conducted in a sustainable and eco-friendly manner without inflicting destruction on the terrestrial environment.

Skills students will acquire: General skills pertaining to cell biology, molecular biology and pharmacology, mammalian, bacterial and fungal cell culture techniques, DNA sequencing, PCR, column chromatography and medium (MPLC) and high pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC)

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Dr. Tracy Wiegner: Staphylococcus and MRSA in Hawaiian Coastal waters

Dr. Tracy WiegnerDepartment: Marine Sciences

Synopsis: Dr. Wiegner is examining the effect of climate change on the presence of human pathogens like Staphylococcus aureus and MRSA (methicillin resistant S. aureus) in the Hilo Bay watershed area. MRSA patients at the Hilo Medical Center are part of this study to determine what kind of activity put them at risk for MRSA and how timing of infection relates to rainfall conditions.

Skills students will acquire: Project planning, sample collection and processing (includes filtering and culturing bacteria), data analysis using Excel and stats programs, and GIS map making.

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