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Mission

The Nutritional Immunology Laboratory investigates the role of dietary components and their interactions with other environmental factors and genes in age-associated changes of the immune and inflammatory responses. Our research looks to reverse and/or delay the onset of these immunologic and age-related changes by appropriate dietary modifications and to determine the molecular mechanisms by which nutrients modulate immune cell functions. Methods are being developed to use the immune response as a biologically meaningful index in determining specific dietary requirements. The laboratory uses a translational approach to: 1) Study cellular and molecular mechanisms of age and nutrition-induced changes in immune and inflammatory responses. 2) Determine the efficacy of food components including total calories, lipids, micronutrients such as vitamin E, and zinc, as well as flavonoids such as those in green tea and wolfberry, and pre- and pro-biotics on improving the immune function and/or dampening the inflammatory responses using cell culture, animal models and clinical trials. 3) Determine the efficacy of food components such as micronutrients and phytochemicals in the prevention of infectious, autoimmune and chronic diseases in animal models, clinical trials and observational studies in U.S. and less developed countries. 4) Determine the life-long impact of obesity and reducing caloric intake on immune response and resistance to infection. 5) Investigate the impact of nutrition during fetal life on long-life resistance to immune and inflammatory diseases.

Lab Objectives

1. Investigate the molecular and cellular basis of age-related decline in T cell function and its reversal by vitamin E.
a) Determine the mechanisms of Vitamin E-induced enhancement of T cell function in the aged with focus on early activation signaling and membrane related events.
b) Determine the contribution of polymorphisms at cytokine genes to heterogeneity of vitamin E-induced effects on cytokine production and resistance to respiratory infections.

2. Determine the effect of reducing caloric intake on the immune response of humans.

3. Determine the effect and mechanisms of food components and their interaction with age on immune function, infectious and chronic diseases.

Members

Simin Nikbin Meydani, D.V.M., Ph.D., Laboratory Director
Senior Scientist
Research focus: Nutrition, lifestyle and prevention of age-related diseases and disabilities with particular focus on immune and inflammatory diseases

Dayong Wu, M.D., Ph.D.,  Associate Director
Scientist I
Research focus: Molecular mechanisms of age-related changes in immune cells, and effects of nutrients, dietary components, and functional food on immune and inflammatory responses, T cell-mediated autoimmune disorders, and host resistance to infection

Gerald F. Combs, Jr., Ph.D.
Senior Scientist
Research focus: Fundamental studies with cultured cells and animal models to human metabolic and clinical investigations with strong interests in micronutrient functions, diet and cancer prevention and sustainable food systems

Alexander Panda, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H
Scientist II
Research focus: Age -associated defects in localization and trafficking of Toll-like receptor 1

Weimin Guo, Ph.D.
Scientist III
Research Focus: Effects and mechanisms of diet, obesity and comorbidities on immune function and inflammatory responses in both human and animal models


Erin D. Lewis, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellow
Lijun Li, B.S., Research Assistant
Stephanie Marco, M.A., N.H. Cert., Administrative Coordinator