Judy Zhang – Microneedle Arrays and Peanut Allergy

About me

Hi everyone! My name is Judy Zhang and I am currently a rising senior; I am majoring in Biological Sciences and Spanish and minoring in Chemistry and Social Work. A fun fact about me is that I am a vegan. While the rest of my family eats meat, I’ve been vegetarian since I was ten years old and became vegan during my senior year of high school!

Regarding professional aspirations, I hope to become a physician in the future; I actually am in the process of applying to medical school right now! One major aspect of the Brackenridge Fellowship I am looking forward to is learning how to discuss my research with peers from many different disciplines; I plan to apply the communication skills I develop from this in the future during my medical career, as being able to communicate effectively with others is a key characteristic of a good physician.

I am so excited to be part of the Brackenridge community — I can’t wait to share my research with you all as well as learn about the amazing projects everyone else is working on!

My project – Treating peanut allergy with microneedle arrays

For my project, I am focusing on optimizing the therapeutic treatment of peanut allergy using microneedle arrays. My research mentor is Dr. Tina Sumpter, and I have been conducting research in Dr. Sumpter’s lab since my freshman year.

Peanut allergy is the most prevalent food allergy in the U.S. and can result in life-threatening complications. The most common course of action for dealing with it is simply avoidance of the allergen, which presents a large obstacle for the everyday lives of those who are allergic. Thus, there is a great need for the creation of an effective therapeutic treatment for peanut allergy.

Our lab investigates the use of microneedle arrays loaded with lose dose of peanut and immune modifiers as a potential treatment for peanut allergy. When a person has an allergy, their immune system processes the allergen as a harmful invader and tries to fight it off, resulting in many adverse reactions. However, if a small amount of allergen can be introduced into their immune system in conjunction with immune modifiers that inhibit the immune response, they could potentially gradually develop tolerance to the allergen.

Microneedle arrays (MNAs) are minimally-invasive dermal patches that contain many microscopic needles which can be loaded with compounds that can circulate in the body’s system after application. Because they directly pierce through the skin’s relatively impermeable outermost barrier but do not reach nerve endings or blood vessels, they offer a painless, reliable delivery of compound into the skin.

Our previous data show that MNAs loaded only with peanut allergen actually initiate an inflammatory cascade that activates the immune system instead of suppressing it. Loading anti-inflammatory compounds into our MNAs may help combat this, and so my project this summer will focused on determining which specific immunosuppressive compound(s) are most suitable to be used in conjunction with peanut allergen in our MNAs.


Korkmaz, E., et al. “066 Skin-Targeted Delivery of Crude Peanut Extracts Using Dissolving Microneedle Arrays.” Journal of Investigative Dermatology, vol. 139, no. 5, 2019, doi:10.1016/j.jid.2019.03.142.

Larrañeta, Eneko, et al. “Microneedle Arrays as Transdermal and Intradermal Drug Delivery Systems: Materials Science, Manufacture and Commercial Development.” Materials Science and Engineering: R: Reports, vol. 104, 2016, pp. 1–32., doi:10.1016/j.mser.2016.03.001.

Shakya, Akhilesh Kumar, et al. “Microneedles Coated with Peanut Allergen Enable Desensitization of Peanut Sensitized Mice.” Journal of Controlled Release, vol. 314, 2019, pp. 38–47., doi:10.1016/j.jconrel.2019.09.022.

Waghule, Tejashree, et al. “Microneedles: A Smart Approach and Increasing Potential for Transdermal Drug Delivery System.” Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy, vol. 109, 2019, pp. 1249–1258., doi:10.1016/j.biopha.2018.10.078.

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