Marilyn Allen

Participant: PROMISE AGEP Research Symposium

Marilyn Allen CBEE

Marilyn E. Allen

Department: Chemical, Biochemical and Environmental Engineering

Institution: University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC)



Engineering immune cells via lipid-tailed biomolecules

Lipid-tailed biomolecules like toll-like receptor (TLR) 2 agonists Pam2CSK4 rapidly insert into immune cell plasma membranes without genetic modification or a vector, termed lipo-depoting.  Our lab and others have shown that lipo-depoted CD8+ T cells provide intercellular signaling that can activate bystander, non-depoted cells in co-culture. This study explored the potential enhancement of lipo-depoted T cells cultured together with CD11c+ bone marrow-derived dendritic cells (BMDCs). We hypothesized that Pam2CSK4 depoted T cells would activate a signaling cascade in nearby/neighboring BMDCs that enhances T cell activation. Our data showed that co-cultured populations led to increased expression of activation markers CD25 and CD69 on BMDCs and increased production of the cytokine granzyme B by T cells.  These results suggest that lipo-depoting has potential as a novel strategy to enhance cell-based immunotherapy, increasing CD8+ T cell activation via intercellular signaling to BMDCs in immunosuppressive environments.



Marilyn received her B.S. in Chemical and Biological Engineering from Tufts University. As an undergraduate researcher, she worked to characterize the anchor and secretion signal mechanisms of the mucus binding protein, MucBP, in probiotic l. reuteri. Marilyn is currently a doctoral student in the Chemical, Biochemical, and Environmental Engineering department at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Her research focuses on integrating immunology and engineering to design therapeutics for cancer and autoimmune diseases. She has been awarded the Meyerhoff Graduate Fellowship and the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation Bridge to Doctorate (LSAMP BD) Fellowship during her graduate tenure. She is also an advisory member for the Meyerhoff Graduate Program and served her department as senator and president of the graduate student organization, BioChEgs.



Immunotherapy for breast cancer and lupus.



“Enhancing immune cell function via membrane insertion of lipid-tailed biomolecules.”

  1. Poster presentation at University of Maryland, Eastern Shore Research Symposium, Princess Ann, MD, April 2017.
  2. Poster presentation at University of Maryland, Baltimore County Graduate Research Conference, Baltimore, MD, March 2017.
  3. Poster presentation at the Annual National Cancer Institute-University of Maryland (NCI-UMD) Partnership for Integrative Cancer Research Symposium, Bethesda, MD, February 2017.
  4. Poster presentation at University of Maryland, Baltimore County Biotech Symposium, Baltimore, MD, January 2017.


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