Nutritional Immunology

 

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.

Staff
Simin Nikbin Meydani, D.V.M., Ph.D., Laboratory Director
HNRCA Center Director, Senior Scientist and Professor, Nutrition and Immunology
Research focus: age- and nutrient/diet induced changes in immune and inflammatory responses, their underlying mechanisms and clinical implications

Junaidah Bajrai Barnett, MCH(N), PhD.
Scientist I, Adjunct Associate Professor, FSNSP
Research focus: Effects of nutrients, dietary and other factors on infectious and chronic diseases and their risk factors.

Alexander Panda, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H
Scientist II, Assistant Professor at Tufts Medical Center/Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care (PCCM)
Research focus: Age associated defects in localization and trafficking of Toll-like receptor 1

Junpeng Wang, Ph.D.
Scientist III
Research focus: Immunomodulating effects of nutrients, dietary components, and functional food on T cell function, autoimmune disorders, and host resistance to infection

Dayong Wu, M.D., Ph.D.
Scientist I and Associate Professor, Nutrition
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

Sarbattama Sen, M.D.
Adjunct Scientist and Assistant Professor, Pediatrics
Research focus: Maternal obesity andinflammation, maternal obesity and immune function, maternal obesity and micronutrient balance

Davidson H. Hamer, M.D.
Visiting Scientist, Boston University Schools of Public Health and Medicine
Research focus: nutritional relationships of infectious disease

Sung Nim Han, Ph.D., R.D. ,
Visiting Scientist, College of Human Ecology, Seoul National University, Seoul, Korea
Research Focus: Molecular mechanisms of obesity-associated changes in inflammation and immune function, effects of dietary fat on immune function,  effects of obesity on vitamin D metabolism, effects of obesity on regulation of mineral status


Mitra Rozati, M.D., M.S., Ph.D. Candidate, Graduate Student, University of Mass, Lowell
Sally M. Vanegas, M.S., Ph.D. Candidate, Friedman School
Lijun Li, B.S., Research Assistant
Stephanie Marco, M.A., N.H. Cert., Administrative Coordinator

For contact information, please click on the scientist’s webpage or visit the Tufts University online directory http://whitepages.tufts.edu/.