RESEARCH: Winners of Biomedical Symposium announced

“A great success” is how Dr. Mariana Gercheson describes April’s two-day Biomedical Symposium at the John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM).  It was a success on several fronts: more posters than ever, as well as the participation of two undergraduate students at Kapio’lani Community College (KCC) and two students from the University of Hawai’i at Hilo’s School of Pharmacy.

Graduate Division Winner (Tie) Arjun Raman explains his research

“One-hundred thirty six posters and abstracts were presented,” said Gerchenson, JABSOM’s Director of Graduate Programs. Biomedical Symposium Program Administrator Lyn Hamamura added, “We’ve been working really hard on involving all levels of education.” She said the two entrants from KCC were inspired to submit research posters by their instructors, Dr. Jeffrey Squires and Dr. Matthew Tuthill, whom Hamamura identified as PhD graduates of JABSOM’s Cell & Molecular Biology program.

Luc Rougée with his poster, the overall Dean's Award winner

The two-day symposium produced several winners. The overall winner on the list of Dean’s Award recipients was Luc Rougée, PhD, whose poster, number 123, was titled “GILBERT’S DISEASE AND OBESITY AS OBSTETRIC RISK FACTORS AND EFFECTS ON MINORITY POPULATIONS”.  Rougée’s work was the first study to determine the prevalence of clinical Gilbert’s disease in Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, as well as its effect on pregnancy outcomes in Hawaiians. “Since Gilbert’s can be managed by diet, the outcomes from this study can lead to improved prenatal care for obstetric and minority health,” wrote Rougée. Rougée’s advisor was Abby Collier, PhD, of the Department of Tropical Medicine, Medical Microbiology and Pharmacology.

MD Student Division: Improving assisted reproduction

Aileen Tamura won the medical student division

In the Medical Students Division, Aileen N. Tamura’s work was judged the best. Her poster, number 34, was “MECHANISM OF MEIOTIC SPINDLE DISAPPEARANCE AND REGENERATION DURING OOCYTE VITRIFICATION”.  Tamura investigated “oocyte vitrification”, which is a new assisted reproductive technology to store eggs in the frozen state.  A healthy baby comes from fertilization of an egg that is in good condition.  However, eggs are extremely fragile and prone to damage, and gradual deterioration from age.  This dramatically increases risk of conceiving babies with birth defects, such as Down syndrome.  Also, procedures that treat cancers, like radiation and chemotherapy, destroy eggs in the ovary, making those female patients essentially infertile even after the cancer is cured.  These unfortunate situations, however, may be avoided by freezing and storing undamaged eggs at younger ages or before cancer treatments, so that those eggs can be thawed later and used to produce healthy babies.

Oocyte vitrification is still a new technology, and the American Society of Reproductive Medicine strongly recommends that its safety and efficiency must be evaluated and demonstrated through continued research.  In her study, Tamura used eggs that are collected from the laboratory mouse as an experimental model, and investigated what types of structural changes take place during the freezing and thawing processes of vitrification, because such changes may affect the quality of eggs.  Tamura’s analyses revealed that the “meiotic spindle”, which is a molecular apparatus essential for the correct partitioning of genetic materials into the egg, is dynamically altered at specific time points of the vitrification procedure.

Tamura hopes that this information, along with her further research in Dr. Yusuke Marikawa’s lab at JABSOM, would contribute to improving the safety and efficiency of the oocyte vitrification procedure, and help many women to preserve their undamaged eggs to conceive healthy babies. Tamura’s advisor, Marikawa, is with JABSOM’s Institute for Biogenesis Research, Department of Anatomy, Physiology and Biochemistry.

Graduate Division-Tie

There was a tie in the Graduate Division, with Arjun V. Raman (Advisor: Marla J. Berry, PhD, Department of Cell and Molecular Biology, pictured above, and Rachael MK Gonzales, (Advisor; George R. King, MD, Department of Medicine, Neuroscience & MRI Research) sharing the title. Raman’s poster, number 48, was about on the “ABSENCE OF SELENOPROTEIN P BUT NOT SELENOCYSTEINE LYASE CAUSES NEUROLOGICAL DYSFUNCTION”.  Gonzales’ poster, number 89, was  “ALTERED BRAIN MICROSTRUCTURE IS ASSOCIATED WITH HIGHER CORTISOL LEVELS IN CHRONIC MARIJUANA USERS”.

Graduate Division Winner (Tie) Rachael Gonzales

“My research goal is to understand the neurological damage that marijuana abuse and addiction can cause an individual,” explained Gonzales. “Currently, my research project is located at The Queen’s Medical Center here in Hawai’i, where I investigate the effects of active and daily marijuana use in adults. At Queen’s, we use a 3 Tesla MRI scanner to obtain functional and structural information about the effects of marijuana in the human brain,” said Gonzales.

Faculty, Residents, MD Fellows Divisions

In the Faculty Division, Johann Urschitz, PhD, Assistant Professor, in the Department of Anatomy, Physiology and Biochemistry and the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Women’s Health, finished at the top, with his research described in poster number 1, “CORRELATION OF GENETIC RISK FACTORS WITH GESTATIONAL DIABETES AND PREECLAMPSIA IN WOMEN FROM HAWAII.”

Finishing first in the Residents/MD Fellows Division was Nicole Y. Gesik, D. O., advised by Dr. Andrew W. Nichols, M.D. with the Department of Family Medicine, Division of Sports Medicine. Dr. Gesik’s poster, number  21, was on “THE USE OF PREGAME HYPERHYDRATION WITH INTRAVENOUS FLUIDS IN NATIONAL COLLEGIATE ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION FOOTBALL BOWL SUBDIVISION TEAMS”.

Research Support, Post Doctoral Fellows, and Undergraduate Divisons

Erin M. Fukaya, Research Associate, was winner in the Research Support Division. Her advisor was Linda Chang, MD, of the Department of Medicine, Neuroscience & MRI Research Group. Fukaya’s poster was number 85, “MOTOR FUNCTION AND NEUROMETABOLITES IN CHILDREN WITH PRENATAL METHAMPHETAMINE OR NICOTINE EXPOSURE”.

The Post Doctoral Fellows Division was won by Keith Weiser, PhD. His advisor was Tom Humphreys, PhD, of JABSOM’s Institute for Biogenesis Research. That poster, number 64, described “A STUDY OF EVOLUTIONARY CONSERVATION OF FUNCTION OF iPSC PLURIPOTENCY GENES FROM PTYCHODERA FLAVA TO SUPPORT PLURIPOTENCY AND PROLIFERATION IN MOUSE ES CELLS”.

Caroline Lau, was judged best in the Undergraduate Division with Poster number 67: “CRANIOFACIAL DEFECTS RESEMBLING FRONTONASAL DYSPLASIA IN THE tuft MOUSE EMBRYO”. Her advisor was Keith SK Fong, PhD, in the Department of Anatomy, Physiology and Biochemistry.

Congratulations to all the winners and mahalo to the faculty, staff and students who came by to enjoy the presentations. And a special mahalo to those researchers who provided additional background information for this story.








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