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Univ. of Hawaii Nets $1M to Study Functional Genomics of Biofilm Bacteria

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Scientists at the University of Hawaii at Manoa have received a $1 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to investigate the functional genomics and interactions of bacteria living in biofilms.

The aim of the project will be to elucidate the gene expression dynamics of biofilms, which can exist as bacterial colonies within the oral, genital, respiratory, and gut microbiomes, the university said on Thursday.

Although bacteria in biofilms within hosts, such as humans, generally exist in organized and balanced communities, that balance can be upset and can lead to infections, some of which are among the most difficult to treat, according to the research proposal.

The research team on this project seeks to "establish the functions of selected bacteria in single- and mixed-species biofilms, to potentially better treat infections caused by these bacteria including Cystic Fibrosis lung infection, contact lens-related eye infections, bacterial endocarditis, and other infections," principal investigator Tung Hoang, a professor in the university's microbiology department, said in a statement.

The team also is seeking to establish the molecular mechanism of pathogenesis in tropical diseases such as melioidosis, glanders, and leprosy. Their long-term ambition is to use this research to lay the groundwork for new diagnostics, vaccines, and better treatments.

Hoang and his partners have already been studying the functional genomics of a biofilm comprised of a single species, Pseudomona aeruginosa, and now they plan to look at this species in mixed biofilms that include Burkholderia cenocepaia. They hope that their global gene expression studies will help them learn more about the interactions and dynamics in these bacteria within their biofilm microenvironments.