Farm data shows 60 percent improvement in diabetes risk

Photo courtesy UH West Oahu

Data collected by the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa and MA‘O Organic Farms, to capture the relationship between ‘āina(land/environment) and ola (health/life) from individuals living in Wai‘anae, show promise that getting a community involved in preventing type 2 diabetes can reduce their disease risk.

While scientists monitored health data from 392 people across Oʻahu, the majority lived in Waiʻanae, including 259 individuals of Native Hawaiian or Pacific Island ancestry—those at highest risk in Hawaiʻi for type 2 diabetes.

The UH study partnered with MAʻO Organic Farms in Waiʻanae, which provides educational and employment opportunities to young people in the area. These “interns” work the land and also receive tuition waivers. It is a program that the researchers and the community-based organization suspected would improve health among the interns, because they are active, working the land in ways their ancestors did, consuming healthier food—farm fresh—all while getting an education.

Many of the interns agreed to take part in the study, which measured body mass index, blood pressure, mental health, gut microbiome composition, diet, social economics, health behaviors and social network influences. It is among the interns that the preliminary results showed a 60 percent decline in risk for type 2 diabetes.  

The study leaders are Alika Maunakea, a Waiʻanae-born associate professor at the John A. Burns School of Medicine(JABSOM), an expert in epigenetics (the molecular interaction between the environment and genes, and how changes in this interaction are involved in diseases that are disproportionately prevalent in Native Hawaiian and Pacific Island populations), and Ruben Juarez, an associate professor in the Department of Economics and UH Economic Research Organization. Juarez is a mathematical economist researcher with expertise in social networks and behavior.

“Studies like ours allow grassroot community-based organizations that do not explicitly target health, but definitely impact it, to be valuable partners in the healthcare system,” said Maunakea. “That enables sustainable health care by shifting the focus from treatment to prevention-oriented approaches in the real-world.”

Maunakea and Juarez hope by the study’s end they can develop new methodologies for communities to assess the impact of their programs in a rigorous scientific manner, or as they put it, “enable communities to play a vital role in the healthcare ecosystem.” The scientists also hope that, in the future, their study might be able to expand to other high-risk parts of the state.

Their overall aim is to collect data to capture the relationship between aina (land/environment) and ola (health/life) within social networks from individuals living in Waiʻanae. Waiʻanae and other communities where poor health is the highest in the state share some other factors associated with poor health: adults lacking a high school diploma, those 200 percent below the poverty level, those unemployed, those on food stamps, and those of Native Hawaiian/Pacific Island ancestry. However, these communities often are home to grassroot organizations, like MAʻO Organic Farms, that seek to mitigate these issues from a variety of holistic approaches and, in effect, can provide realistic solutions themselves to these unsustainable public health problems when enabled by evidence-based data of efficacy, as this study exemplifies.

The HMSA Foundation and Kamehameha Schools are sponsors of the research project.

New wave mural unveiled in Kaka‘ako

SALT at Our Kakaʻako and community partner AccesSurf unveiled the newest “101 Perfect Waves” mural by noted artist Hilton Alves, at the SALT Bar Crawl.

AccesSurf’s equipment truck was adorned with one of Alves’ special murals, as part of his 101 Perfect Waves International Mural Project. An acclaimed artist and waterman, Alves is painting large wave scenes around the world to inspire people to take part in environmental preservation and have a greater relationship with art. His work can be seen on Oʻahu and Maui, and also Sao Paulo, Brazil and at Sentosa Island, in Singapore.

The AccesSurf mural, which will be display at The Barn at SALT at Our Kakaʻako, will help raise awareness of the nonprofit’s mission of building an inclusive community that empowers people with disabilities, through accessible beach and water programs. Outreach includes helping wounded service men and women by providing them with healing ocean experiences, like surfing.

While at SALT at Our Kakaʻako, guests can visit the many unique stores and restaurants that make it urban Honolulu’s most exciting gathering place and the 2018 winner of the International Council of Shopping Centers Shopping Center of the Year Award.

Parking is available in the SALT at Our Kaka‘ako parking structure, accessible from Keawe Street. Additional parking is also available at The Flats at Puʻunui. See www.saltatkakaako.com. Follow and tag photos @SaltOurKakaako.

Learn more about AccesSurf at www.accessurf.org and the 101 Perfect Waves International Mural Project at www.101perfectwaves.com.

About SALT at Our Kaka‘ako

Named after the paʻakai (Hawaiian for “salt”) ponds that once dotted the low-lying wetlands of this area, SALT at Our Kaka‘ako is Honolulu’s innovative epicenter for local culture, food, shopping, and events. Comprising 85,000 square feet of a dynamic mixture of local small business and national brands, SALT is an urban city block designed for exploration and engagement for retail, restaurants, and services. This groundbreaking gathering place in the heart of Our Kakaʻako is where new makers and new ideas converge.

Owned by Kamehameha Schools, revenues generated from SALT at Our Kakaʻako fund educational opportunities for more than 48,000 learners and caregivers annually through three campuses on the O‘ahu, Maui, and Hawai‘i island; 30 preschools statewide, literacy instruction and support in more than 200 public school classrooms; financial and educational support for 17 Hawaiian-focused public charter schools; and collaborations with 50 additional organizations throughout the state. www.saltatkakaako.com

About Our Kakaʻako

Our Kaka‘ako encompasses nine city blocks in the heart of Kaka‘ako centered around the arts, culture and creative hub on Auahi, Keawe and Coral streets. It’s an emerging epicenter for Hawai‘i’s urban-island culture that is an incubator for a variety of artists, chefs, influencers and entrepreneurs. Rooted in Hawaiian cultural values, Our Kakaʻako is built on empowering creativity, cultivating innovation and building a truly unique, local community. www.ourkakaako.com

About Kamehameha Schools

Kamehameha Schools is a private, educational, charitable trust founded and endowed by the legacy of Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop, the great-granddaughter and last direct descendant of King Kamehameha I.

The mission of Kamehameha Schools is to improve the capability and well-being of Native Hawaiians. Kamehameha Schools achieves their mission by operating an educational system serving over 6,900 students of Hawaiian ancestry at K-12 campuses on Oʻahu, Maui and Hawaiʻi island. Income generated from its Hawai‘i real estate and portfolio of diverse financial investments fund 96% of the Schools’ educational mission. www.ksbe.edu

About AccesSurf

Established in 2006, AccesSurf creates an inclusive community that empowers people with disabilities through accessible water programs. In following the spirit of Duke Kahanamoku, AccesSurf continues to be a pioneer in the advancement of adaptive watersports, ocean recreation, and therapeutic instruction for participants throughout the state of Hawai’i and worldwide. To become a participant, volunteer or learn more visit www.accessurf.org. Follow on social media: Facebook @accessurf and Instagram @accessurf_hawaii.

Great Whale Count volunteers observe humpback whales from Kaua‘i, O‘ahu, Hawai‘i, and Maui

More than 612 volunteers gathered data from the shores of O‘ahu, Kaua‘i and Hawai‘i islands during the second event of the 2019 Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary Ocean Count, and on Maui with the Great Whale Count by Pacific Whale Foundation.

This is the first year that both counts are coordinated on the same days, ensuring the data from all main islands is collected simultaneously. It is also the first year that Pacific Whale Foundation is expanding their Great Whale Count on Maui from one month to three.

Combined, volunteers collected data from 55 sites across all the main islands. A total of 372 whale sightings were seen during the 8:30 am to 8:45 am time period, the most of any time period throughout the day’s count. Sanctuary Ocean Count volunteers collected data from 43 sites on the islands of Hawai‘i, O‘ahu and Kaua‘i on February 23. A total of 278 whale sightings were seen during the 8:30 am to 8:45 am time period, the most of any time period throughout the day’s count. Great Whale Count volunteers collected data from 12 sites across Maui on February 23 during timed intervals 8:30 am and 11:50 am. A total of 774 whales were seen throughout the day, with 94 whales counted during the 8:30 am to 8:45 am time period, the most of any time period throughout the day’s count.

Weather conditions were nearly perfect for viewing whales across majority of the islands. Although several sites on Maui and Hawai‘i island did experience some rain during the event. During the count on Maui, a humpback whale mother was spotted conducting “fluke-up feeding” with her calf at the Ma’alaea site, a breaching manta ray was seen from the McGregor Point scenic lookout, and a pod of dolphins swam by the Kihei Surfside site. A variety of other species were also spotted during the count including ( e.g.: sea turtles, spinner dolphins, Hawaiian monk seals, a manta ray, multiple sea bird species and more.)

Ocean Count promotes public awareness about humpback whales, Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, and shore-based whale watching opportunities. Volunteer participants tally humpback whale sightings and document the animals’ surface behavior during the survey, which provides a snapshot of humpback whales activity from the shorelines of O‘ahu, Kaua‘i and Hawai‘i islands. Ocean Count is supported by the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation.

The annual Great Whale Count by Pacific Whale Foundation brings volunteers together to count whales from shore as part of a long-term survey of humpback whales in Hawaii, with 12 survey sites along the shoreline of Maui. This event provides a snapshot of trends in relative abundance of whales and is one of the world’s longest-running citizen scientist projects.

Both counts will take place three times during peak whale season: the last Saturdays in January, February, and March of 2019.

Preliminary data detailing Sanctuary Ocean Count whale sightings by site location are available at oceancount.org. Additional information will be available on Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary’s website at hawaiihumpbackwhale.noaa.gov. Pacific Whale Foundation’s Great Whale Count data may be found at mauiwhalefestival.org with additional information at pacificwhale.org.

The Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, which is administered by NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries and the State of Hawai‘i Department of Land and Natural Resources, protects humpback whales and their habitat in Hawaiian waters where they migrate each winter to mate, calve and nurse their young.

With a mission to protect the ocean through science and advocacy, and to inspire environmental stewardship, Pacific Whale Foundation (PWF) conducts Research, Education and Conservation programs for the communities in which it serves. Founded by Greg Kaufman in 1980 as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to saving the world’s whales from extinction, PWF now operates a social enterprise that offers fee-based programs and services through PacWhale Eco-Adventures to help fund its nonprofit work. Combined with memberships, donations, charitable grants and a remarkable group of dedicated volunteers, PWF now reaches more than 400,000 individuals each year through its Maui and Australia offices and research projects in Ecuador and Chile.

The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, established in 2000, is the official non-profit partner of the National Marine Sanctuary System. The Foundation directly supports national marine sanctuaries by protecting species, conserving ecosystems and preserving America’s maritime heritage through on-the-water conservation projects, public education and outreach programs and scientific research and exploration.

Nalu Scientific awarded $300,000 for sensors used in particle physics

A Hawaii startup is building cutting-edge tools to help scientists explore the fundamental components of our universe.
Nalu Scientific, founded in October 2015, was awarded two $150,000, nine-month grants from the U.S. Department of Energy as part of the federal Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs under the Department of Energy (DOE).
The first award will fund the design and testing of a beam diagnostic tool used in particle accelerators. The second will bolster the company’s efforts to develop a low-cost, low-power electronic processing microchip that can support both scientific research as well as commercial applications like medical imaging and self-driving cars.
“Modern sensors with applications in measuring fundamental properties of matter require modern day electronics for fast processing of data,” explains Isar Mostafanezhad, founder and CEO of Nalu Scientific. “Future basic science, engineering and medical discoveries depend upon novel tools like ours that can provide more precise measurements.”
Nalu Scientific was among the recipients of $31 million in the first release of SBIR/STTR funds for 2019. 
“U.S. small businesses are a crucial aspect in driving innovation and creating jobs in our economy,” U.S. DOE Secretary Rick Perry said in a statement. “The SBIR and STTR programs are an excellent way for small businesses and the federal government to team up to advance scientific research and development, creating a more secure energy future for America.”
Specifically, the Nalu Scientific SBIR awards will support:
  • Design, implementation, and testing of a single-detector Time Resolved Beam Halo Monitor (TR-BHM), built with high performance strips of diamond integrated with Nalu Scientific’s data processing microchips.
  • Design, development, and commercialization of the AODS, a fast measurement tool that can detect the properties, momentum, and direction of charged particles and photons in particle and high energy physics experiments.
Mostafanezhad estimates that both projects could each generate $6 million in sales and licensing revenue in the first decade of commercial availability.
These latest SBIR/STTR awards follow two $1 million grants received by Nalu Scientific in September of 2017 and September of 2018 to build a microchip with similar applications.
The SBIR/STTR programs are designed to increase private sector commercialization of technology developed for research and development (R&D), stimulate technological innovation in the private sector, encouraging participation by women-owned and minority- owned small businesses, and improving the return on investment from federally-funded research for economic and social benefits to the nation.
Nalu Scientific, based at the Mānoa Innovation Center, has developed in house technology and methods for simulation, analysis and design of advanced micro-electronics. The company has benefitted from a good working relationship with the Department of Physics of the University of Hawaii at Mānoa.
About Nalu Scientific, LLC
The Nalu Scientific team has over 60 years of commercial and academic experience in high-performance electronics and related technology. In addition to his entrepreneurial pursuits, founder and CEO Dr. Isar Mostafanezhad has experience in high speed electronics, Radio Frequency work, computer engineering and interfacing. For more information, visit www.naluscientific.com.

UH researcher develops heat resistant Ebola vaccine

Axel Lehrer
There is more positive news to report about the Ebola subunit vaccine candidate developed by University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa scientist Axel Lehrer.

In his scientific article, Thermostable Ebola virus vaccine formulations lyophilized in the presence of aluminum hydroxide, Lehrer demonstrates his vaccine can sustain immunogenicity, the ability to provoke an immune response in the body, after being stored at 104°F for up to 12 weeks.

“None of the other Ebola vaccines under development have the ability to withstand high temperatures, which is an ongoing concern in areas of the world where Filoviruses are endemic,” said Lehrer, assistant professor, in the Department of Tropical Medicine, Medical Microbiology and Pharmacology at UH Mānoa’s John A. Burns School of Medicine.

“The ability to stabilize our vaccine candidate to retain immunogenicity may not only have an impact on logistics, but also has the potential to reach more persons in need with fewer vaccine doses. This would be a tremendous advantage, especially in endemic areas, increasing the number of people receiving sufficient doses of the vaccine to protect them from disease.”

Lehrer said he and his team are very encouraged by these preliminary results and look forward to their continuing collaborations with Soligenix, a late-stage biopharmaceutical company based in New Jersey and Lehrer’s Hawaiʻi-based Ebola subunit vaccine collaborator Hawaii Biotech Inc. to further develop vaccines for Ebola and the filovirus.

The paper was published in the European Journal of Pharmaceutics and Biopharmaceutics.