Dr. Nikolich-Zugich's principal interests are to understand (i) basic mechanisms of immunity and how these mechanisms decline and deteriorate with age to erode protective immunity against infection; and (ii) how they can devise methods to correct or ameliorate immune dysfunction by means of new vaccines, immunomodulatory and metabolic intervention and/or immune rejuvenation. They use infectious disease models, including biodefense and emerging infection (cat. A-C) agents to probe immune defense, homeostasis, T-cell repertoire and memory in the mouse, non-human primate and human models.
Dr. Nikolich-Zugich's other interest is longevity and Healthspan modulation by nutritional and metabolic intervention. The promise of healthspan extension via dietary and pharmacologic intervention raises the possibility of delaying many organ-specific diseases of aging simultaneously with longevity extension. However, that mandates careful investigation into benefits, as well as possible costs, of different treatments to truly achieve healthspan extension. Immune system is particularly sensitive to nutrient deprivation if faced with acute infection, and they are studying whether and how different longevity extension treatments can improve function of the immune system while still providing longevity/healthspan benefit.
Dr. Nikolich-Zugich has trained and mentored 11 doctoral students (all 8 who passed qualifying exams graduated with Ph.D.) and 17 postdoctoral trainees, and am currently training/mentoring 2 doctoral students, 3 postdoctoral trainees and 5 junior faculty/clinical fellows with K awards. Of these, 11 postdoctoral trainees hold faculty or senior industry positions, and all 8 former Ph.D. students have continued postdoctoral education.
Dr. Nikolich-Zugich has been successfully developing and leading complex multiinvestigator and multidisciplinary projects, including P01s, BAA contracts and other collaborative grants for >18 years, and has been continuously funded by the NIH since 1992. He believes that multidisciplinary approach, particularly when combining basic discoveries with potential translation towards human therapies, can yield outstanding dividends in research.