Bethany Professor Receives Research Grant from WV INBRE

BETHANY, W.Va. – Dr. Matthew Swearingen, Assistant Professor of Biology, received a West Virginia INBRE (Idea-Network for Biomedical Research) pilot grant in the amount of $14,977 to employ Next Generation Sequencing technology to study catheter infections caused by bacterial biofilms.

Bacterial biofilms are heterogeneous communities of bacteria that adhere to surfaces and secrete a slime matrix composed of sugars, proteins and DNA, which helps to protect the bacteria from environmental stressors like desiccation, antibiotic attack and physical forces.

Swearingen noted that the work for the study will commence immediately this year, and the grant will provide Bethany students the opportunity to conduct impactful biomedical research, and the potential to work with major Universities in West Virginia.

“This grant solidifies a collaboration between myself and two major biomedical research collaborators – Dr. Paul Stoodley at The Ohio State University (OSU), who is a globally renowned biofilm researcher and Dr. Joe Harrison at the University of Calgary (Canada), who is an expert in the field of high throughput nucleic acid sequencing techniques and bioinformatics,” said Swearingen.

“The study will sequence the gene messages in bacterial cells that recently endured a fluid shear-stress event within a catheter model,” said Swearingen. “Determining what genes are up- or down-regulated after a shear-stress event is essential to determining how biofilm microemboli respond to shear, and what implications detachment or shear stress-dependent gene expression could have downstream, particularly in the context of a chronic infection.”

A 2007 graduate from Bethany in Biology, Swearingen earned his doctorate in Microbiology from The Ohio State University where he conducted research on Salmonella infection and cell-to-cell communication. Swearingen also completed a two-year postdoctoral training fellowship at OSU studying chronic biofilm infections in humans.

Bethany College is located on a picturesque and historic 1,300-acre campus in the Northern Panhandle of West Virginia. Founded in 1840, Bethany is the state’s oldest private college.