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Giovanna ZAPPALA

Giovanna Zappala
Title: Health Scientist Administrator
Office(s): Division of Geriatrics and Clinical Gerontology (DGCG)
Phone Number: 301-827-6240
Email Address:


Giovanna Zappalà, Ph.D., M.P.H. is a Health Scientist Administrator in the Clinical Gerontology Branch of the National Institute on Aging's Division of Geriatrics and Clinical Gerontology (DGCG). At the National Institute on Aging (NIA), Dr. Zappalà cultivates a research portfolio that focuses on elucidating physiological mediators of molecular pathways involved in promoting health across the life span and in aging. Mechanistic targets under research include—but are not limited to—progenitor and stem cell populations, telomere length, epigenetic modifications, mitochondrial bioenergetics, adipokines and metabolic mediators, peptides, growth factors, hormones, and other biomolecular targets and biomarkers. She also leads DGCG's research efforts on nutrition and aging, and clinical studies of different dietary interventions (e.g., whole food plant-based nutrition, caloric restriction, intermittent fasting, time-restricted feeding).

Dr. Zappalà received her Ph.D. in Experimental Physiopathology from the University of Rome Tor Vergata School of Medicine through trans-institutes collaboration with the National Institutes of Health (NIH); her Degree with highest honors in Medicinal Chemistry and Pharmaceutics from the University of Catania School of Pharmacy; and her Master of Public Health from the Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University. As a former recipient of a Government Oncology Research Fellowship in Cancer Angiogenesis, Dr. Zappalà performed her first post-doctoral work at the University of Catania. Afterward, she joined NIH and completed additional post-doctoral research studies in angiogenesis and stem cell differentiation at the National Cancer Institute, and thereafter at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, investigating molecular mechanisms of cancer apoptosis and metabolic dysfunction. 

Dr. Zappalà’s research career's primary focus is the integration of multiple fields of study with the aim to disentangle our understanding of the onset, promotion, and multilayered progression of diseases—such as cancer, neurodegenerative disorders, and obesity—within the continuum of inflammatory processes. She also worked at pioneering a new research field exploring the effects of the neuroendocrine system in tumor dormancy.

Research Interests/Portfolio

  • Nutrition and aging
  • Clinical dietary intervention studies, including whole food plant-based nutrition and caloric restriction
  • Juvenile Protective Factors
  • Changes in stem/progenitor cells with aging
  • Career Development related to research issues on aging across the life span