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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service




Ph.D., Cell and Molecular Biology

Program in the School of Medicine


University of Nevada, Reno


Office:     430 West Health Sciences Dr.

                 University of California

                 Davis, CA 95616


Phone:     (530) 752-5156


Fax:         (530) 752-5271



Zunino Lab






Dr. Zunino received a Bachelor’s degree in biology and a PhD. in cellular and molecular biology from the University of Nevada, Reno.  She received her postdoctoral training at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Department of Pathology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.  She then held an Assistant Professor position in the Department of Genetics at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany where she studied the role of antioxidant phytochemicals as potential chemotherapeutic agents against infant acute lymphoblastic leukemia, which is refractory to conventional chemotherapeutic agents.  Dr. Zunino joined the Western Human Nutrition Research Center in 2003 to continue studies of phytochemicals and their anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer activities.  She also serves as an Adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Nutrition at the University of California, Davis, and is a member of the American Association of Immunologists, American Association for Cancer Research, and American Society for Nutrition. 


Research Program


The overall objective of Dr. Zunino’s research is to understand how antioxidant phytochemicals from fruits, vegetables, herbs, and spices regulate the immune system.  Dr. Zunino has recently completed a human feeding study to understand the how strawberries in the diet can affect lipids and inflammation in obese individuals.  She is currently conducting a human feeding study to determine whether grapes in the diet can lower the risk of cardiovascular disease in obese volunteers.  Dr. Zunino is also conducting studies to examine the anti-inflammatory activities of dietary phytochemicals in autoimmune diseases such as type 1 diabetes and lupus, and is continuing studies aimed at determining the preventive value of phytochemicals in leukemia.  These studies will aid in defining appropriate dietary intake levels of foods containing high concentrations of antioxidant phytochemicals that may contribute to a healthy immune system in humans.


Research Accomplishments


Found that feeding type 1 diabetic mice food containing 1% grape powder delayed the progression of diabetes and increased survival of the mice compared to mice receiving regular food.


Discovered that several antioxidant phytochemicals (from grapes, strawberries, rosemary, and feverfew) killed leukemia cells in a cell culture model by disrupting mitochondrial function. 


Found that resveratrol, an antioxidant phytochemical found in grapes, increased the presence of the survival protein Bcl-2 in activated B lymphocytes, suggesting a protective role for this phytochemical in the immune system. 


Selected Publications


1.      Zunino, S.J., D.H. Storms, T.L. Freytag, B.E. Mackey, L. Zhao, J.S. Gouffon, and D.H. Hwang.  2013.  Dietary strawberries increase proliferative response of CD3/CD28-activated CD8+ T cells and production of TNF-a in lipopolysaccharide-stimulated monocytes from obese humans.  Brit J Nutr, 2013 Apr 18:1-9. [Epub ahead of print]


2.      Zunino, S.J., D.H. Storms, J.W. Newman, T.L. Pedersen, C.L. Keen, and J.M. Ducore.  2013.  Oral or parenteral administration of curcumin does not prevent the growth of high-risk t(4;11) acute lymphoblastic leukemia cells engrafted into a NOD/SCID mouse model.  Int J Oncol 42: 741-748.


3.      Zunino, S.J., M.A. Parelman, T.L. Freytag, C.B. Stephensen, D.S. Kelley, B.E. Mackey, L.R. Woodhouse, and E.L. Bonnel.  2012.  Effects of dietary strawberry powder on blood lipids and inflammatory markers in obese human subjects.  Brit. J. Nutr. 108: 900-909.


4.      Zunino, S.J., D.H. Storms, J.W. Newman, T.L. Pedersen, C.L. Keen, and J.M. Ducore.  2012.  Dietary resveratrol does not delay engraftment, sensitize to vincristine, or inhibit growth of high-risk acute lymphoblastic leukemia cells in NOD/SCID mice.  Int. J. Oncol. 41: 2207-2212.


5.      Parelman, M.A., D.H. Storms, C.P. Kirschke, L. Huang, and S.J. Zunino.  2012.  Dietary strawberry powder reduces blood glucose concentrations in obese and lean C57BL/6 mice, and selectively lowers plasma C-reactive protein in lean mice.  Brit. J. Nutr. 108: 1789-1799.


6.      Zunino, S.J., Y. Zhang, N.P. Seeram, and D.H. Storms.  2010.  Berry fruit extracts inhibit growth and induce apoptosis of high-risk acute lymphoblastic leukemia cells in vitro.  J. Functional Foods 2: 187-195.


7.      Zunino, S.J.  2009.  Type 2 diabetes and glycemic response to grapes or grape products.  J. Nutr. 139: 1794S-1800S.



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Last Modified: 6/10/2013
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