Nutritional Immunology Team

Clinicians examining specimens


The Nutritional Immunology Team 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 team 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 fruits and vegetables, 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 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 impact of fruits and vegetables on health- and life-span in lean and obese.


  1. Determine the effect of nutritional intervention such as vitamin E on immune and inflammatory responses and resistance to infection using appropriate human and animal models.
    1. Establish the effects of vitamin E supplementation on the incidence and severity of human rhinovirus infection in healthy community dwelling older adults.
    2. Understand the mechanistic basis for vitamin E-mediated changes in incidence and severity of common cold.
  2. Determine the life-long effect and underlying mechanisms of food components such as fruits and vegetables on life and health span through longitudinal intervention trials using appropriate animal models.
    1. Determine the effect of long term fruit and vegetable consumption on key biological functions, pathologies, and median life span in lean and obese mice.
    2. Determine the underlying mechanism of fruit and vegetable impact on life- and health-span in normal weight and obese mice.
  3. Determine the safe and efficacious dose and type of Fe supplement to address the global Fe anima problem without adverse impact on malaria and bacterial infection.

Team Members

Simin Nikbin Meydani, DVM, PhD
Lead Scientist and Senior Scientist
Research focus: Nutrition, lifestyle and prevention of age-related diseases and disabilities with particular focus on immune and inflammatory diseases and their underlying mechanisms

Dayong Wu, MD, PhD
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., PhD
Visiting 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, MD, PhD, MPH
Scientist II
Research focus: Age -associated defects in localization and trafficking of Toll-like receptor 1

Weimin Guo, PhD
Scientist III
Research Focus: Effects and underlying mechanisms of food components such as fruits and vegetables on life and health span with particular focus on immune function, resistance to infection, obesity and age-related metabolic dysfunction

Lijun Li, Research Assistant
Edwin Ortega, PhD Student
Abigail Thompson, Staff Assistant
Chris Pereira, Research Administrator II