Honors Projects for Biology

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    The role of Tel2, an mTOR stabilizing protein, on the cell survival of cardiomyocytes against ischemic stimuli
    (University of Hawaii at Manoa, 2018) Wong, Sharon Mei ; Matsui, Takashi ; Biology
    The aim of this study is to determine if stabilizing mTOR (mechanistic target of rapamycin), a cardioprotective protein, can potentially affect cell survival in cardiomyocytes. More specifically, how ischemic stimuli may affect cell survival. My hypothesi
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    The ORC4 Protein: The ORC4 Cage Function in Erythroblast Enucleation
    (University of Hawaii at Manoa, 2018) Nguyen, Lynn ; Ward, William Steven ; Biology
    This research project focused on determining further functions of the origin recognition complex 4 protein (ORC4) – one of six ORC proteins. We aimed to investigate whether the ORC4 cage mechanism, which plays a significant role in DNA replication prepara
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    A Randomized Double-blinded Placebo-controlled Trial Comparing Blood Pressure with and without Oxytocin Use During Dilation and Evacuation Procedures at 18-24 Weeks Gestation
    (University of Hawaii at Manoa, 2018) Anderson, Clare-Marie ; Kaneshiro, Bliss ; Biology
    Oxytocin is a neurohormone that is routinely administered to patients during dilation and evacuation (D&E) procedures to control bleeding despite minimal existing evidence in support of this common practice. In this study, we seek to evaluate oxytocin’s e
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    Evaluation of a Perinatal Support Program for FASD Prevention
    (University of Hawaii at Manoa, 2014) Pascal, Emma ; Onoye, Jane ; Biology
    FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders) are physical and/or mental disorders resulting from prenatal alcohol exposure. As a significant cause of birth defects and infant mortality, FASD is also associated with a multitude of challenges from birth through maturation. FASD is preventable; further, effective intervention prevention programs for high-risk populations can also reduce risk for FASD from prenatal alcohol exposure. The Hawai‘i Department of Health implements a statewide Perinatal Support Services Program in community-based health centers and organizations to provide support for at- risk mothers. The state program has continually served approximately 1,600 women each year. With a significant Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, and Asian population, this program serves a diverse sample previously not discussed in literature on FASD. Given that alcohol use co-occurs with other risk factors, this project evaluated the impact of these services on the reduction of alcohol use during pregnancy through longitudinal examination (by trimester) and examined the association of alcohol risk with sociodemographic information and other related behavior and risk factors. The results were shared with the program sites through the Hawai‘i State Department of Health and also with the Hawai‘i FASD Task Force to inform prevention and intervention efforts throughout the State. In addition, the findings were disseminated to the field through the Research Society on Alcoholism national conference.
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    Extending Lifespan with Genetic Modification
    (University of Hawaii at Manoa, 2017-08) Holcom, Angelina ; Reed, Floyd ; Biology
    Aging is a complex biological process that is characterized by different factors. One major factor are telomeres, which cause cell death and results in aging when they shorten. Telomeres are the end caps of the chromosome and are made of a repeated section of DNA. Their purpose is to maintain genomic and cellular stability, which involves protecting the genome from breaking down or mutating. The goal of this experiment is to learn how telomeres function in Drosophila melanogaster in order to better understand their aging process. In the experiment the expression of two genes that produce telomere complex proteins, spindle-E and cav, will be decreased to determine their effect on the life cycle and lifespan. I will measure the life cycle by recording the time it takes for an adult to eclose. The lifespan will be measured by counting how many fruit flies are alive and dead each day. I found that there is an increase in life cycle compared to control and there’s a mutation in eye phenotype of the UAS.Cav.RNAi. x ey-GAL4 population. There is a significant increase in lifespan of the crosses: UAS.Spn-E.RNAi. x Act5C-GAL4, UAS.Spn-E.RNAi. x ey-GAL4, UAS.Cav.RNAi. x Act5C-GAL4, and UAS.Cav.RNAi. x nos-GAL4. The reduction of spindle-E and cav in D.melanogaster appears to affect the ability to develop into adults. There are other telomere genes that can assist in telomere maintenance in the absence of another gene and that these genes have only an effect in specific tissues, which limits their effects in other regions of the organism.
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    The Comparison of the Performance of the SNAP ELISA and Zinc Sulfate Centrifugation Tests in Detecting Giardia duodenalis in Recently Imported Dogs to Hawaiʻi
    (University of Hawaii at Manoa, 2016-05) Nakaoka, Ashley ; Odani, Jenee ; Biology
    INTRODUCTION: Giardia duodenalis is an internal protozoan parasite that can infect a variety of mammals, including humans, domestic animals and wildlife. There are eight known genetic assemblages (A-H) of G. duodenalis, with assemblages A and B found in both humans and dogs, and C and D specifically in dogs. Giardiasis is the clinical disease caused by infection with G. duodenalis, and is typically, but not always, accompanied by diarrhea. Approximately 1,000 dogs arrive annually into the State of Hawaiʻi through the Animal Quarantine Station (AQS) and a zinc sulfate centrifugation test is performed to screen for intestinal parasites, including G. duodenalis. The genetic types of the Giardia strains entering Hawaiʻi have not been previously determined. METHODS: The zinc sulfate centrifugation test and the IDEXX Giardia SNAP ELISA test were performed on fecal samples collected within three days of the dogs’ arrival at the Hālawa AQS. RESULTS: This study found that 11/97 of the dogs used in this study arrived at AQS with Giardia duodenalis (assemblages C or D). Discordance between the SNAP ELISA test and zinc sulfate centrifugation test was v 0.545. Overall, there was a concordance rate of 0.938 between the two tests. DISCUSSION: Giardia duodenalis Assemblages C and D are not zoonotic, so the zoonotic potential of Giardia carried by dogs in Hawaiʻi is low. The high concordance rate of the zinc sulfate centrifugation test indicates that there is a satisfactory detection of Giardia cysts by the Hawaiʻi Department of Agriculture Veterinary Laboratory microbiologists.
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    A Ligand-Binding Study of G-Protein Coupled Estrogen Receptors in MCF-7 Breast Cancer Cells and 17ß-Estradiol
    (University of Hawaii at Manoa, 2015-05) Okudara, Rance ; Ng, Leung Ho ; Biology
    It is known that some cancer cells have receptors for hormone ligands. For example, breast cancer cells many times have receptors for estrogens. When estrogens bind to the receptors of these cells, a response—such as growth—is generated within the cells. Recently, a new trans-membrane protein has been found to be associated with estrogenic pathways, called G-protein-coupled estrogen receptor (GPER). It is believed that GPERs are embedded in the membranes portions of cells. Study of GPER raises exciting new questions because roles for GPER have already been implicated for almost every system of the body. Previous research has already demonstrated the binding of estrogens to other estrogen receptors. Several assays demonstrating the biological effects of estrogen in cells expressing GPERs suggest that GPERs are likely receptors for estrogen. However, direct molecular evidence of GPER’s ability to bind estrogen is still lacking. This project uses the MCF-7 breast cancer cell line, affinity chromatography, and Western Blotting techniques in an effort to provide direct molecular evidence showing that GPERs bind to 17β-estradiol (E2). The objectives of the experiment were to grow and lyse the cells to release the GPER proteins, purify the proteins by using an estradiol affinity chromatography column, and detect whether GPERs binds to E2 based on which fraction it is found in using a Western Blot. Currently, we are working on optimizing the estradiol affinity chromatography column and Western Blot.
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    Habitat Conservation of Aquatic Animals Including Dolphins Utilizing Estrogen Receptor Reporter Gene Assays
    (University of Hawaii at Manoa, 2015-05) Iguchi, Mona ; Grau, E. Gordon ; Biology
    Steroid hormones, including estrogen, play important roles in the reproduction, growth and development in all vertebrates. Estrogenic chemicals have been detected in the aquatic environment and estrogenic pharmaceuticals have been found to affect fish reproduction. Estrogenicity of chemicals can be screened by an in vitro reporter gene assay using estrogen receptors (ERs) from aquatic animal species. The goal of this research is to establish an in vitro dolphin ER reporter gene assay for screening of some environmental chemicals with estrogenic activity. To achieve this goal, dolphin ER gene was cloned. Due to low preservation quality of dolphin samples, only the ligand binding domain could be cloned. The ligand binding domain of dolphin ER was transfected into HEK293 cells (human embryonic kidney cell line lacking endogenous ERs expression) with reporter construct. Then, estrogenic potency of some environmental chemicals such as 4-nonylphenol (NP), bisphenol-A (BPA) and o,p’-DDT (DDT) and natural estrogen, 17-estradiol (E2) were analyzed using the reporter gene assay. An in silico docking model using amino acid sequence of dolphin ER ligand binding domain was applied to these chemicals to show potential docking stability to dolphin ER. The data obtained by the reporter gene assay matched with those of in silico docking model. Using these screening systems for chemicals with estrogenic activity, can be applied in the detection of environmental chemicals and used to minimize the release of estrogenic chemicals in habitats of dolphins and other aquatic mammals.
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    Assessing the Effects of Plants and Exercise Locations on Individuals in Hawaii
    (University of Hawaii at Manoa, 2015-05) Guillermo, Cherie Joyce ; Kaufman, Andy ; Biology
    Adult obesity is one of the main concerns in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 78.6 million or 34.9% of the US adult population are obese. Of that, 22.7% of Hawaii’s adults are obese, while 56.4% of Hawaii’s adults are overweight. This project focuses on studying the effects that plants and exercise locations have on individuals in Hawaii. By understanding if plants and exercise locations affect physical activity among individuals in this target population, new recommendations can be made to help them gain a healthier lifestyle. Participants’ psychophysiological responses were measured by determining their heart rate (ECG), brain waves (EEG), muscle contraction (EMG), and skin responses (GSR). Participants’ stress levels were also measured using cortisol saliva test and Enzyme Linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELIZA) to determine their cortisol’s level of expression. The data generated from this pilot study will add greatly to the exercise habits of individuals in this health category and the associated environmental conditions in which exercising are preferred.
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    Response of Scotorythra Caterpillars (Geometridae) to Drought Simulation and Nutrient Augmentation of Koa (Fabaceae: Acacia koa)
    (University of Hawaii at Manoa, 2015-05) Chi, Megan ; Haines, William P. ; Biology
    This study explored the plant stress hypothesis and the plant vigor hypothesis, two opposing hypotheses regarding how bottom-up factors affect herbivores. Our objective was to provide insight into whether drought may contribute to outbreaks of the specialist koa looper moth (Scotorythra paludicola), which is endemic to Hawaiʻi and causes mass defoliation of the important native koa tree (Acacia koa). However, due to the low abundance of koa moths at field sites at the time of the experiment, we used an endemic generalist Scotorythra rara, which is very closely related to the koa moth, to test caterpillar performance on water-stressed or nutrientenriched potted koa. We found no evidence that drought simulation affected phyllode characteristics. Despite this, caterpillar performance was significantly poorer on drought-stressed koa, supporting the plant vigor hypothesis. Caterpillars subjected to drought-stressed koa took longer to develop, and had lower pupal weights than caterpillars reared on unstressed koa. Furthermore, caterpillar performance was correlated with variation in phyllode physical and nutritional traits. Caterpillars performed better on phyllodes with higher water content, higher nitrogen content, lower thickness, and lower toughness.