Marilyn Allen


Chemical, Biochemical and Environmental Engineering

Area of Doctoral Study: Chemical and Biochemical Engineering

Undergraduate Institute: Tufts University

Research Advisor: Gregory Szeto, Ph.D.

Description of Research

Lupus is a chronic, autoimmune disease where the body attacks healthy tissues and organs. Nephritis, inflammation of the kidneys, is the leading cause of morbidity and mortality in 60% of lupus patients. My Ph.D. thesis work explores using shape-based targeting nanoparticles as a platform to safely and efficiently deliver antimalarial drugs to lupus nephritis patients. Antimalarials are the most commonly prescribed disease-modifying, steroid-free drugs for lupus patients and have been in use since the 1950s. They are cheap, safe for pregnant women, and reduce disease activity with rare, mild side effects. A limitation of antimalarials is the requirement of up to 3+ months of doses before the drug is fully active, and that the drug may still be unable to reverse damage done to the kidneys by nephritis. In that case, highly toxic drugs that suppress the immune system are added to a patient’s treatment regimen. By loading antimalarials in nanoparticles that specifically target immune cells that play a role in worsening nephritis, we expect to increase the onset of active drug, limit toxicity, reduce symptoms, and decrease the dose normally prescribed to patients.