Skip to content
Reading time: 2 minutes
Green poha berries
Poha berries

Three student pharmacists at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy are conducting research to combat antimicrobial resistance, which has become a global public health threat in recent years. UH Hilo second-year students Alyssa Kam, Yang Xu and Chae Min Lee are working under the supervision of Professors Leng Chee Chang and Supakit Wongwiwatthananukit to synthesize silver nanoparticles using extract from Physalis peruviana (locally known as poha berry), and evaluate its antibacterial activity.

“Our research focuses on safely, efficiently and economically translating new therapeutic agents from natural products,” said Wongwiwatthananukit. “Application of nanotechnology in pharmacy (nanopharmacy) enhances the bench-to-bedside approach to patient care.”

Group of people smiling in front of research poster
Left to right: Yang Xu, Professor Leng Chee Chang, Alyssa Kam

The students presented the results of their research at the UH Mānoa John A. Burns School of Medicine Biomedical Sciences and Health Disparities Symposium held April 21 at the UH Cancer Center. Their work has also been accepted for a poster presentation at the annual research symposium, which includes academic and student researchers from around the state.

“Misuse and overprescribing of antibiotics are the main factors leading to antimicrobial resistance,” explained Kam. “That’s why it’s important to identify alternative compounds with antimicrobial activity, especially plant-based compounds.”

Undetectable by the human eye, a nanoparticle is a particle of matter between 1 and 100 nanometers in diameter. Silver is widely used for nanoparticles as an innovative method of drug delivery.

Poha berries up close
Poha berries

“Our research results showed the synthesized silver nanoparticles using the Physalis peruviana extract demonstrated good antibacterial activity against Gram-negative E. coli and one of the Gram-positive Methicillin-sensitive S. aureus bacteria strains that we tested, both which exist here in Hawaiʻi,” said Chang. “The next step is to determine the optimal and functional nanoparticle sizes that also have good stability properties.”

Nanoparticles research is a growing segment within the field of nanomedicine, which makes it a very relevant topic in pharmacy curricula, according to Chang. Currently there are more than 50 nanomedicines approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

“Offering a Doctor of Pharmacy curriculum based on emerging pharmaceutical and clinical science applications is significant,” explained Chang. “It is important to give our students this opportunity to learn about nanoparticles and nanomedicine through research electives, including the course Special Topics in Pharmaceutical Sciences Research/Lab.”

For more, visit the UH Hilo College of Pharmacy website.

Three student pharmacists
Left to right: Alyssa Kam, Yang Xu, Chae Min Lee
Back To Top