Year 1 Pilot Projects

Glen Chew, Ph.D.

The Impact of Metaformin on Immunological Parameters in HIV Infected Individuals

Chronic HIV disease is a health disparity in Hawaii and characterized by viral persistence, immune dysregulation and high levels of immune activation that may be responsible for the higher and non-infectious age-related complications in HIV even among individuals on antiretroviral therapy (ART) who are fully virologically suppressed. The oral drug metaformin has been approved for treatment of Type 2 diabetes prevention. Emerging data from clinical studies show that Metaformin in a variety of patient population may have other effects, besides being an anti-hyperglycemic agent. Based on our preliminary studies, the objective of this study is to see if this drug has beneficial effects on inflammation and immune function caused by HIV.

Jane Chung-Do, Dr. P.H.

Backyard Aquaponics: Promoting Healthy Eating among Native Hawaiian Families

The objective of this study is to test the feasibility and acceptability of a 3-month culturally-grounded family-based backyard aquaponics intervention with Native Hawaiian families living in a rural/underserved community. The research question is “Is a backyard aquaponics program an acceptable and feasible intervention for Native Hawaiians to increase nutritional intake and obesity risk? Native Hawaiians are more likely to die from obesity-related diseases than other major ethnic groups. Native Hawaiians tend to live in “food deserts,” a major risk factor for obesity, due to limited availability of healthy food options combined with high concentrations of fast food. Efforts to address these health disparities have historically used Western-centric methods and have not produced long-lasting results among indigenous peoples, including Native Hawaiians. Therefore, there has been a call for culturally-grounded health interventions, which are demonstrating promising results with indigenous peoples worldwide.

Abhijit Date, Ph.D.

Tenofovir disoproxil fumarate nanoparticles for local prevention of HIV infection

Globally, nearly 2 million new HIV infections have been reported every year, for the last several years. It is well known that > 80% of HIV infections are contracted through sexual transmission. Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders (NHOPI) have a disproportionately high rate of HIV compared to the Hispanic/Latino population. Tenofovir (TF) is a widely explored anti-HIV drug for prevention of vaginal and rectal transmission of HIV. However, the results of clinical trials have been mostly disappointing due to inadequate permeability and delivery of TF to vaginal and rectal tissues. Tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (TDF) is a pro-drug of TF with better permeability but poor stability. We aim to harness the potential of nanotechnology to improve stability and vaginal/rectal delivery of TDF.

Francie Julien-Chinn, Ph.D.

Understanding resiliency and well-being among Native Hawaiian and Micronesian families who are exposed to the trauma and risk associated with being houseless

Almost 5,000 houseless (sheltered and unsheltered) individuals reside on Oʻahu, over 1,200 identify

as Native Hawaiian (or other Pacific Islander) individuals, and almost 460 are houseless families (PIT, 2016). Gaining an understanding of how these families utilize protective factors to overcome the trauma and challenges of being houseless can guide interventions, policy, practice and future research specific to this population. Our objective is to build an understanding of how Native Hawaiian and Micronesian families who are exposed to the trauma and risk associated with being houseless are able to maintain a sense of resiliency and well-being.

Christoph Rettenmeier, Ph.D.

Fatty Liver Disease in HIV infected Individuals

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is present in 35% of the HIV population on potent antiretroviral therapy (ART). These individuals are at high risk for the development of hepatosteatosis and cirrhosis. Risk factors identified included high BMI and type 2 diabetes, which are also highly prevalent in the Native Hawaii population. Non-invasive methods that are accurately and objectively quantify liver fat are needed. Magnetic resonance (MR) techniques can decompose the liver signal into its fat and water signal components. Although treatment strategies for NAFLD are currently based on modification of risk factors, many new drugs are now in clinical trials. Our objective is the development of an MRI method to quantify live fat with and to apply it in a clinical study on Hawaii population with HIV.

Multiple PIs: Marie Revilla, Ph.D., R.D.N., Jacqueline Ng-Osorio, DrPH, MPH

Exploring First Foods of Keiki on Oahu, Hawaii

Early feeding practices are linked with growth, eating behavior and health later in life. Current recommendations are to introduce a diversity of nutrient dense first foods at 6 months. Recent national data suggest that sugar sweetened beverages are the most commonly consumed first food while consumption of fruits and vegetables and dietary diversity is low. The assessment of dietary intake with a high level of accuracy in children continues to be a challenge. Numerous advancements have been made in the use of mobile technologies to incorporate images to assist with dietary assessment. The mFR has been identified as feasible for use in assessing the diets of children and adults. Adults (21-34 y) are the highest adopters of mobile devices and represent the majority of parents with young children. Our study will explore the first food feeding practices of Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, and Filipino infants (ages 3 to 12 months) on O‘ahu through assessing the feasibility of using the mobile food record (mFR).

Tessi Sherrin, Ph.D.

Development of a platform for translational Affective Neuroscience: fMRI imaging of fear response in a mouse model of PTSD

Reducing the expression of traumatic fear memory with extinction procedures is fundamental to therapeutic interventions for anxiety disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in humans. Although the work with the mouse models of PTSD has yielded significant insights into molecular mechanisms responsible for fear retrieval and extinction, brains circuitries/system underlying these processes are still poorly understood. Thus, there is a clear requirement for translation and preclinical neuroscience research into the treatment arena.  By combining advanced molecular modes of PTSD with a novel fMRI-based model of measuring brain-wide activity during processing and responses of fear relevant stimuli, we will be uniquely positioned not only to determine brain structures involved in the reduction of fear responses, but also delineate brain structure involved in a distinct phases of fear memory, namely, consolidation, retrieval, extinction, reinstatement and generalization of fear memories.