Elizabeth M. Gardner

Elizabeth M. Gardner

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Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies




PhD, The Medical College of Pennsylvania, 1994
BS, Chesnut Hill College, 1987

Professional Positions

Adjunct Research Assistant, Professor of Bioscience and Biotechnology, Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA, 2007-2010

Director, Flow Cytometry Core, Bioscience and Biotechnology, Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA, 2005-2007

Assistant Professor of Bioscience and Biotechnology, Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA, 2002-2007

Research Assistant Professor, Microbiology and Immunology, MCP Hahnemann University School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA, 1999-2002

Manager, Flow Cytometry Core Laboratory, Microbiology and Immunology, MCP Hahnemann University School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA, 1996-2002           

Research Interests

Nutritional Immunology

Immmunity decreases in aging, most well documented as an impaired cell-mediated response to antigen, i.e., reduced T cell proliferation and altered cytokine production. Aged mice also exhibit altered innate immunity, including a decrease in inducible natural killer (NK) cell activity, although such changes have not been consistent in humans. Influenza is perhaps the best characterized model for studying the immune response to virus, and influenza and its secondary pneumonias represent a major public health concern in the U.S., particularly among the elderly. We and others have shown that the immune response to influenza vaccine is reduced in the elderly as evidenced by lower antibody titers, decreased T cell proliferative responses, reduced cytotoxic T cell activity, and altered cytokine production compared to young controls. However, the study of immunity, particularly in the elderly, can no longer be limited to efficacy of vaccination, given the emergence of new viral strains of common viruses, such as avian influenza, and the threat of using viruses to which there are no current vaccines as agents of bioterrorism. Therefore, a major emphasis of our research is to study the response of young and aged mice to primary influenza infection at the site of infection, i.e., the lung, with a particular interest in NK cell phenotype and function. We also study the effects of nutritional interventions, including antioxidants and nutraceuticals, on outcome to primary influenza infection or as adjuvants to vaccination in both animal models and in humans.

A second emphasis of our research focuses on the effects of caloric restriction (CR) without malnutrition on the NK cell response to influenza infection.  While elderly CR mice have been reported to have an increased response to influenza vaccination, our data have shown that CR increases susceptibility to influenza infection in both adult and aged mice.  We have further demonstrated that CR alters NK cell phenotype and impairs NK cell function, leading to the inability to recover from influenza infection.  However, refeeding CR mice prior to influenza infection, restores NK cell function, enabling recovery from influenza infection.  Thus, it appears that CR may have specific, deleterious consequences on NK cell biology, which may be overcome by providing additional calories prior to infection.

Instructional Activities

HNF 464/450 - Nutrition in the Prevention and Treatment of Disease
HNF 825 - Advanced Nutritional Immunology

Selected Publications

Clinthorne, J.F., Beli, E., Duriancik, D.M., Gardner, E.M. (2013). Natural killer cell maturation and function in C57Bl/6 mice is altered by caloric restriction. J. Immunol . 190:712-22. Epub 2012 Dec 14.

Roman, B.E., Beli, E., Duriancik, D.M., Gardner E.M. (2013).  Short-term supplementation with Active Hexose Correlated Compound (AHCC) improves the antibody response to influenza B vaccine Nutr Res. 33:12-7. Epub 2012 Dec 4.

Hwang, I., Kakarla, T., Duriancik, D.M., Choi, S., Cho, C., Lee T., Park H., Scott, J.M., Jo, M., Ortiz, T., French, A.R., Beli, E., Gardner, E.M., Kim, S. (2012). Activation mechanisms of natural killer cell during influenza virus infection. PloS One. 7: e51858. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0051858. Epub 2012 Dec 31.

Beli E., Clinthorne J.F., Duriancik D.M., Hwang I., Kim S., Gardner E.M. (2011). Natural killer cell function is altered during the primary response of aged mice to influenza infection. Mech. Ageing Dev. 132:503-510.

Clinthorne, J.F., Adams D.J., Fenton J.I., Ritz B.W., Gardner E.M. (2010). Short-term refeeding of previously energy-restricted C57BL/6 male mice improves nutritional status and restores natural killer cell function after primary influenza infection. J. Nutr. 140: 1495-1501.