Rebecca Bader, an assistant professor of biomedical and chemical engineering at Syracuse University, has watched her aunt’s 41-year battle with rheumatoid arthritis, including countless surgeries and having all of her major joints replaced at least twice. This experience spurred her to action at her Bader Research Laboratory, where she and her team focus on research to improve the quality of life for those who suffer from RA.
Toward that end, Bader has just been awarded a National Science Foundation grant to research a drug delivery system that will minimize the negative effects of taking anti-rheumatic medications over a long period of time. Two drugs, methotrexate and cyclosporine A, are commonly used to treat RA. With current delivery systems, it is not possible to target either of these medications to only damaged tissues. So, all parts of the body get hit, healthy or otherwise. The result is the usual--a high incidence of negative side effects, including liver and kidney damage, especially when used long-term.
Bader is going to experiment with natural, biodegradable polysaccharides as the basis of vehicles for drug delivery. She'll formulate them into nanoparticle drug carrier systems that selectively target diseased tissue based upon their relatively large size. Most healthy tissues only have pores that are five nanometers, while diseased tissues have pores between 10 and 1,000 nanometers in size.
One other aspect to Bader’s two-year NSF grant of $174,990: It’s a Broadening Participation Research Initiation Grant (BRIGE) award, which means a key component is to increase recruitment of people with disabilities to engineering at Syracuse. She's formed a partnership with the Burton Blatt Institute at the university, which advances participation of people with disabilities.