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University of Hawaiʻi scientists receive international recognition for their selenium research

The scientists have been chosen to host an 2021 international symposium on the subject in Honolulu

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Tina M Shelton, (808) 554-2586
Dir of Communications, Office of Dean of Medicine
Posted: Sep 18, 2017

Dr. Marla Berry and Dr. Peter Hoffman in the lab at JABSOM
Dr. Marla Berry and Dr. Peter Hoffman in the lab at JABSOM
Selenium supplements
Selenium supplements

Selenium (suh-leen’-ee-um) is an essential nutrient that has antioxidant properties and can prevent disease in humans and animals.  It is considered a micronutrient, meaning that it is needed in very small quantities to produce health benefits. Selenium is found in foods, but also sold over-the-counter in multivitamins, and as a dietary supplement.  

University of Hawai’i John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM) professors Marla Berry and Peter Hoffmann are among the world’s top experts on selenium.  The Journal of Biological Chemistry selected their scientific article on the unique family of proteins containing selenium as among the research highlights of the year in the biomedical sciences. (

Selenium is an antioxidant nutrient that can protect humans from metabolic, cardiovascular, inflammatory and neurodegenerative diseases, as well as many forms of cancer.

“Selenium was originally thought to be toxic and then in the middle of the last century (the late 1950’s) it was discovered that it was essential in animal diets and human diets for preventing a number of diseases from developing,” said Dr. Marla Berry, professor and chair of cell and molecular biology at JABSOM.

Most plants and animal-based foods contain selenium, and seafood is particularly rich in this nutrient.

“You can buy selenium over-the-counter at your local drug store and take supplements and it is present in multi-vitamin supplements. Fifty-five micrograms is the recommended dose for our daily intake, going up to 60-70 for pregnant and breast-feeding women. Most Americans get that from the food that we eat, so most Americans are selenium adequate,” Berry said.

In an additional honor, Berry and Hoffmann were picked to be organizers of the 12th International Symposium on Selenium in Biology and Medicine, which will be held in Honolulu in 2021.  Hoffmann said that distinction brings added attention to local academic research and a boost to Hawaiʻi’s economy.

“The idea is that it will be roughly 200 to 250 people - experts from all over the world. They will be congregating here and its good for the economy, it’s good for our institution because we will be able to promote some of the research that is done here - some of the top-quality research,” said Dr. Hoffmann, Professor of cell and molecular biology at JABSOM.





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