A Selection of Current Research Projects

Title: Defining the Healthy Aging Phenotype: The Hawaii Lifespan Study
Source: R01 Award: National Institutes of Health/National Institute on Aging
Institute: Pacific Health Research Institute/Kuakini Hospital

The Hawaii Lifespan Study consists of a multidisciplinary team of genetic, epidemiological, behavioral and biodemographic scientists. We are using existing human longitudinal data and specimens from the 40+ year Honolulu Heart Program (HHP) dataset from one of the longest-lived, healthiest, minority populations in the world. This study focuses on functional characteristics of healthy aging over the lifespan and will attempt to identify biological and behavioral factors that enable people to survive to exceptional ages in good health. A greater research effort on the mechanisms of healthy aging will help us understand how protective genetic and environmental traits lead to healthy aging and exceptional survival. Discovery of genetic and/or environmental traits that have significant potential to delay or minimize the age-related changes that increase vulnerability to disease and disability would have a dramatic impact on our ability to achieve healthy old age by delaying or preventing age-associated disease. This study directly supports NIA's mission to improve the health and well being of older Americans. We're planning for the collaboration between our study in Okinawa and the Hawaii Lifespan Study in Hawaii to further assess correlates of healthy aging in Okinawans and other Japanese.

Title: Whole Genome Scan for Longevity in Okinawans
Source: Pilot Study: National Institutes of Health/National Institute on Aging
Institute: Pacific Health Research Institute/Okinawa Center for Longevity Science

We hypothesize that centenarians are a select group of people who have a history of aging relatively slowly and many of whom have avoided or markedly delayed age-associated degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease, heart disease, stroke and cancer. The healthy aging of centenarians is, in part, genetically-based and understanding how these genes influence the aging process could potentially lead to promising drug targets. Okinawa has among the world's greatest life expectancy and among the world's highest documented prevalence of centenarians. Thus, the Okinawans represent a valuable population for determining genetic and environmental correlates of healthy aging and potential resistance to age-related diseases. We are currently enrolling Okinawan centenarians for basic phenotyping and genotyping, with plans to study single nucleotide polymorphisms linked to the exceptional longevity phenotype through whole genome analysis.

Title: International Comparison of Disease History of Exceptional Survivors in Okinawa, Hawaii and the USA
Source: Japan Society for the Promotion of Science
Institute: Okinawa Center for Longevity/Pacific Health Research Institute

This project compares the disease history of exceptional survivors (centenarians) in Okinawa, Hawaii and the USA using the same methodology. Until now different methodology for measuring disease among the oldest old has made international comparison difficult. This project is a three-year project that utilizes the same methodology to assess the prevalence and timing of age-related illness in a population-based study of centenarians in Okinawa (defined in this study as those who are aged 97 or greater). More specifically, it compares age of diagnosis and lifetime disease prevalence in Okinawa, Hawaii, and Mainland USA.

Title: The Effects of Consumption of Traditional Okinawan Vegetables on Oxidative Stress Biomarkers in Americans:The Chample Study 3
Source: Japan Society for the Promotion of Science
Institute: Okinawa Center for Longevity/University of the Ryukyus

The Champuru Study is a randomized controlled human intervention trial that will employ 200 healthy Americans aged 40 to 60 years and living in Okinawa. They will be randomized into a dietary intervention group or a control group. Members of the dietary intervention group will receive an average of 350 g a day of a combination of the following traditional Okinawan vegetables. goya (bitter melon), green papaya (Carica papaya, handama (Gynura bicolor), karashina (Brassica juncea, njana (Crepidiastrum lanceolatum), Hechima(sponge gourd), and Fudanso (Beta vulgaris) among other Okinawan vegetables. A dietary record will be kept by participants.The intervention period will be 4 weeks and outcome measures are oxidative stress markers as well as other nutrients as measured in urinary excretion and blood.