Biomedical Research Series: Dr. Diana Fagan

Dr. Diana Fagan

Within the Department of Biological Sciences at Youngstown State University, there are many areas of research being explored by faculty and students alike. In a monthly series, we will highlight faculty research that covers various aspects of biomedical efforts from DNA to bacteria, fungi, and more.

Dr. Diana Fagan is a Professor of Biological Sciences at YSU. She is a microbiologist and immunologist. Her background in research is primarily with antibodies and cell culturing. Her research has led her to multiple recent collaborations.

One of these collaborations is with Dr. Pedro Cortes, an Associate Professor of Civil/Environmental and Chemical Engineering. He approached Dr. Fagan with his interest in producing Nano sensors that can sense explosives. She has assisted him by using a system called phage display where viruses that infect bacteria are tested for their ability to bind specifically to molecules of interest. The phage having peptides on their surface that bound to the molecules of interest are then removed from the culture for use and the phage is then reintroduced into the bacteria to continue replicating itself. Following this, the phage binding and specificity are tested using an antibody method called an Eliza that will cause a color change if the molecules are properly bound. Researchers can then take the peptide and purify, sequence, and test it for its ability to bind to molecules in a pure form.

After Dr. Fagan completes this process, she gives the peptide to Dr. Cortes. He coats the nanofiber with that peptide. An electric current goes across fiber when it encounters the bound molecules. If it binds it will give you a signal.

Dr. Fagan and Dr. Cortes have used proteins that bind to molecules in blood to test their sensors. They have found that when blood is introduced early in the testing, the Nano sensor will send a signal faster than when blood is not present immediately.  The purpose of this research is to potentially use a patch that can be put in military personnel or police uniforms so if they are shot and bleeding, a signal will be sent at a distance for people to know where to go to aid the wounded.

Dr. Fagan also uses the same research in collaboration with Dr. Cortes to detect explosives using the sensors.

The same methods are being used by graduate students in Dr. Fagan’s lab to produce peptides that bind to Staphylococcus aureus, the bacterium that causes Staph infections. With this research, she and her team of graduate students can find a way to potentially kill the bacterium.

As an additional project, Dr. Fagan uses adult mesenchymal stem cells from bone marrow to find a faster solution to wound healing. Recently, she has used the mesenchymal stem cells in rat models. She started this process by growing stem cell cultures from rat bone marrow. Surgeons from St. Elizabeth Hospital perform surgery on the rats at Youngstown State University. Before closing the incision, her team divides the rats into groups. One group received platelets on the incision. The second group received stem cells and platelets on the incision, and the third group received nothing. The rats were then allowed to heal for 4-8 weeks and then were sacrificed. Using a cutting tool, Dr. Fagan and her research team cut part of the rats’ abdominal tissue into chunks. They conducted histology and collagen synthesis tests.

Dr. Hazel Marie, an Associate Professor of Manufacturing Engineering, used a machine to pull the tissue to test the strain on muscle until it tears. As compared with rats that were untreated, it was found that rats who received only platelets had two times stronger skin, and those who received both platelets and stem cells had three times stronger skin. She is improving this research by using the process of phage display so that she may find individual molecules made by the mesenchymal stem cells that can be used as a potential artificial system for wound healing.

You can see poster publications from her team on the various topics, below.

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For more information about her research, you can contact Dr. Diana Fagan at