September, 2006 Vol. 31 No. 3
Download this issue PDF

Search Malamalama

Published September 2006

Research News

Early muscle development appears to prevent diabetes

illustration of a mouse with muscles

Enhanced muscle mass acquired early in life appears to reduce the risk of obesity and a pre-diabetes condition.

College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources researchers found that young mice with more muscle accumulated less fat and showed now signs of diabetes even when fed high-fat diets as adults.

For more information see the April issue of Molecular Reproduction and Development.


Research clarifies link between drugs and cancer risk

While two drugs tested in a five-year study were equally effective in preventing invasive breast cancer, women taking the osteoporosis drug raloxifene (sold as Evista) experienced fewer side effects and had lower rates of uterine cancer, blood clots and cataracts than those taking tamoxifen.

Nearly 160 Hawaiʻi women at increased risk of developing breast cancer participated in the National Cancer Institute study through UH’s Cancer Research Center. Hawaiʻi participation in such studies is important because it provides data on ethnic groups not widely represented by mainland participants, says Ann Kelminski, a CRCH nurse who is both study coordinator and participant.

On another cancer front, the most rigorous study to date suggests that estrogen-only pills increased risk of blood clots in post-menopausal women in the Women’s Health Initiative, but not as much as supplements that also contain progestin. Researchers recommend that hormone therapy be limited to short-term use for severe symptoms.

For more information see the Apr. 10 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.


Blood pressure treatment reduces dementia risk

Maintaining treatment for high blood pressure appears to reduce the risk of dementia in old age. Men in the Honolulu-Asia Aging Study with untreated hypertension had significantly more cognitive decline than either men treated for high blood pressure or those with normal blood pressure.

For more information see the May issue of Stroke: The Journal of the American Heart Association.


Team discovers role of asbestos in cancer development

Asbestos causes mesothelioma, a kind of cancer, by releasing a cytokine called tumor necrosis factor that keeps asbestos-damaged cells from dying. The finding by a Cancer Research Center of Hawaiʻi team, suggests drugs that may provide an effective treatment.

For more information see the July 5 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


Hawaiʻi kids fare better, but news isn’t all good in latest survey

trio of ethnically diverse kids

Hawaiʻi ranks 21st in a state-by-state comparison of children’s well-being in 2006, up three places from last year.

Data for the annual Kids Count Data Book compiled by Mānoaʻs Center on the Family indicates a drop in the number of teens who are high school dropouts (to 4 percent) and reduction in the teen birthrate (37 per 1,000).

While fewer minors live with unemployed parents (36 percent), Hawaiʻi still exceeds the national average on that indicator. And while the state remains below the national average for the number of deaths among children and teens, the rate worsened from previous years.

More at Hawaiʻi Kids Count.


One-stop online source provides data on aging

three active senior citizens

The Data Center on Hawaiʻi’s Aging offers a comprehensive, one-stop source for data and publications pertaining to Hawaiʻi’s aging.

A joint project of UH Mānoa’s Center on the Family and the Hawaiʻi Executive Office on Aging, the web-based resource provides national and local statistics on demographics, living conditions and other characteristics.

Visit the Data Center on Hawaiʻi’s Aging website.


Reparations handbook features chapter by UH law professor and student

Handbook of Reparations cover

The Handbook of Reparations, released in May 2006 by the International Center for Transitional Justice and Oxford University Press, features a chapter by Mānoa Professor of Law Eric Yamamoto and Liann Ebesugawa, a 2004 UH graduate. Their chapter on Japanese American redress is the one example of U.S. apology and reparations in this global study.

The handbook, which has become a worldwide reference, includes 27 authors from 14 countries and is written from a transitional justice view. It examines ways in which societies attempt to heal by accounting for and repairing the harms of historic injustices.

More at the International Center for Transitional Justice website.


New planet found

high-power telescope

Researchers from the Institute for Astronomy have discovered a new planet. The near Jupiter-sized XO-1b was discovered orbiting star XO-1 in the Corona Borealis constellation.

Astronomers used a small binocular-like telescope built from telephoto camera lenses and off-the-shelf components and housed in an old observatory at Haleakalā.

The automated telescope records starlight throughout the night, documenting the fluctuation in light when a planet passes in front of the star.

Read the news release.


New class of comets found

images of three comets

Researchers at the Institute for Astronomy have discovered a new class of comets. The main-belt comets, named for their orbit in the main belt of rocky asteroids between Mars and Jupiter, have an icy, comet-like appearance but flat, asteroid-like obits.

The comets, discovered using the Gemini North telescope on Mauna Kea, support the theory that icy objects from the main asteroid belt were the source of Earth’s water.

Read the news release.


Slow quakes: Kilauea slips into sea slowly

scientist standing next to a earthquake measurement device stuck in the ground

School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology researchers have identified three new "slow" earthquake events on Kilauea’s southeast flank—covering as much as 100 square miles—that have taken place without being noticed by Big Island residents or Kilauea geologists.

These slow quakes are responsible for shifting large masses of land seaward over the course of many hours—movement equivalent to a 5.5- to 5.8-magnitude typical trembler had the earthquake lasted just a few seconds.

Geologist Benjamin Brooks says the new observations further understanding of how catastrophic landslides occur and could help scientists determine resulting tsunami hazards in Hawaiʻi and across the Pacific.

See the June 30 issue of Earth and Planetary Science Letters.


In local agriculture, a varied portfolio is best

two men discuss while looking at an anthurium

Diversified agriculture is widely touted as the means to a sustainable agricultural industry in Hawaiʻi. But do the data support the strategy?

College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources faculty members Junning Cai and PingSun Leung applied a portfolio analysis—considering stability, growth and response to common and idiosyncratic factors—to various agricultural sectors from 1964 to 2003.

Increased diversity has enhanced the stability of Hawaiʻi agriculture over all, they conclude. Floriculture and nursery products remain star industries (contributing significantly to both growth and stability of the industry as a whole), along with aquaculture, herbs, seed crops, vegetables and melons.

Download the full report under "Economic Issues" on the CTAHR website.


Lab creates nanomaterials


The team recognized by the 2007 Guinness Book of World Records for developing the world’s smallest brush—with bristles a thousand times finer than a human hair—has developed a superior multifunctional composite material using carbon nanotubes in ceramic fiber cloths.

The material was formulated by Mānoa Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Hawaiʻi Nanotechnology Laboratory Director Mehrdad Ghasemi Nejhad’s team in partnership with Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. It out performs other ceramic-fiber composites in fracture tests, dimensional stability, damping properties, thermal management and electrical conductivity.

The UH team has also developed nanoresins with titanium and other nanoparticles. These nanocomposites have superior impact, strength and dinging properties. Potential applications include household goods, construction, surfboards, bikes and vehicles.

The Nanotechnology Lab will co-host the American Society of Mechanical Engineers’ Multifunctional Nanocomposites International Conference at Mānoa Sept. 20-22, 2006.

Visit the website of Nejhad’s Nanotechnology Laboratory.


Energy wave of the future

Recycled radio waste could fuel equipment of the future. Hawaiʻi Natural Energy Institute scientist Bor Yann Liaw says ambient energy, such as that from electromagnetic waves in the environment could be harvested to recharge batteries used in devices like smoke alarms.

Liaw is chief scientist at Maui-based Ambient Micro, which has military research contracts to develop a prototype power supply for sensors on small unmanned aerial vehicles.

The power source is a major challenge in developing tiny tools, such as a housefly-sized drone for combat patrols and police SWAT teams to use in reconnaissance. Liaw sees vast commercial value for a tiny device that can convert radio frequencies, photons, sound waves, vibrations and hot-cold temperature differences into electric power.

More an energy research at the Hawaiʻi Natural Energy Institute


Federal funding for UH research grows

image of leaf hydrolics

Federal expenditures on research increased more than 30 percent at Mānoa in fiscal year 2005—moving the university to 25th in the nation among public institutions and 47th among all universities, according to the latest National Science Foundation survey. Recent new grants include—

  • $887,989 from NSF’s CAREER program to Assistant Professor of Botany Lawren Sack for a five-year study of leaf hydraulics, focusing on native Hawaiian species with an eye to predicting impact of environmental change on plants.
  • $9 million from NSF’s Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research. Matched by the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism over three years, EPSCoR will help expand state infrastructure for research in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
  • $7.7 million from the Department of Defense for a three-year partnership between UH’s Cancer Research Center of Hawaiʻi and Tripler Army Medical Center for basic laboratory research and clinical trials.
  • $1.1 million in two NSF grants to Curriculum Research and Development Group faculty—to develop hands-on electronics and microcomputer technology projects for youth and to examine the role that gender-related language used by children and parents plays in the process of learning mathematics.