Mary Ann Lila

Mary Ann Lila
Director, Plants for Human Health Institute; David H. Murdock Distinguished Professor
Department of Food, Bioprocessing and Nutrition Sciences

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Ph.D., University of Wisconsin
M.S., University of Illinois
B.S., University of Illinois

Download Dr. Lila’s Research Program Handout (PDF)

Dr. Mary Ann Lila’s research focuses on the bioactive compounds found in some foods, particularly fruits and vegetables, that confer human health benefits when the food is eaten. The benefits of eating foods and beverages rich in these compounds are well-established, according to Dr. Lila, but the identity and protective mechanisms of the compounds have not been defined in all cases. Dr. Lila’s research is aimed at identifying bioactive compounds and understanding how they work. She is particularly interested in compounds that appear to help counteract chronic disease and promote endurance.

The LilaLab looks at food plants not for nutritional or caloric value, but with the goal of discerning the preventative, curative or therapeutic properties hidden in every bite. While plants have long been recognized as having pharmaceutical properties, the active plant compounds are often synthesized and reduced to a pill. With greater understanding of the medicinal properties in edible foods, individuals may, one day, be prescribed a ration of curative foods to combat diseases, rather than a dosage of drugs. Dr. Lila’s lab works to identify these bioactive compounds and define the protective mechanism which will ultimately lead to recommendations for how much or how often a food would need to be consumed to confer health benefits. She works specifically with blueberries, black currants, cranberries and other berries. The pigment responsible for the red or deep blue colors is anthocyanin, a compound associated with heart-health, neuroprotective benefits, cancer chemoprevention and antidiabetic properties.

As a result of Dr. Lila’s efforts to locate and study plants around the world, her research has taken on an international flavor. She has large ongoing research projects in Egypt, Central Asia, Oceania, Mexico and sub-Saharan Africa, and is vice president of the Global Institute for BioExploration (GIBEX). In 1999, Dr. Lila won a Fulbright Senior Scholarship to conduct research and outreach in New Zealand. She travels to New Zealand at least once a year for ongoing research efforts.

As a partner with the Medicines for Malaria Venture, the LilaLab is investigating prioritized plant species with potential efficacy for treatment or prophylaxis of malaria. The principle objective of the project is to accelerate the discovery and development of new phytopharmaceutical drugs and to facilitate commercialization to benefit disease endemic countries. The principle role of the LilaLab Team is structural characterization of novel antimalarial bioactives isolated through activity guided fractionation and confirmed as having a high degree of antimalarial activities, including intensive HPLC, LC-MS and NMR analysis.

In addition, Dr. Lila has served as the U.S. correspondent for the International Association of Plant Biotechnology and as president of the Society for In Vitro Biology. She is also a fellow of the society, and served for four years as associate director of the nationally acclaimed Functional Foods for Health Program.

In 2010, Dr. Lila was named the first David H. Murdock Distinguished Professor. Three Murdock professorships were created with a $2 million gift to N.C. State from David H. Murdock, owner of Dole Foods and other businesses. Murdock’s gift was matched with $1 million from the North Carolina Distinguished Professors Endowment Trust Fund, and the $3 million total used to create endowments that fund the three professorships.

Watch a video interview with The Produce Lady (Brenda Sutton). Learn more about Dr. Lila’s blueberry research and how she incorporates this superfood into her diet.

Watch a video introduction of Dr. Lila and her research.

Publications | Lab Staff


Recent Book Chapters

Schreckinger, Maria Elisa, Mary Ann Lila, Gad Yousef, and Elvira de Mejia. 2012. Inhibition of α-glucosidase and α-amylase by Vaccinium floribundum and Aristotelia chilensis anthocyanins and proanthocyandins. ACS Chapter. In Press.

Lila, Mary Ann and Diana Cheng. 2012. Comprehensive strategies for evaluating the adaptogenic properties of phytochemicals. In: Carkeet, C., Grann, K., Randolf, R., Venzon, D., and Izzy, S. (Eds), Phytochemicals: Health Promotion and Therapeutic Potential. Taylor and Francis/CRC Press. 270p. Cat#: K15180

Wang, Jin Zhi, G. Yousef, R. Rogers, E. deMejia, I. Raskin, and Mary Ann Lila. 2012. Maqui berry (Aristotelia chilensis) juices fermented with yeasts: Effects on phenolic composition, antioxidant capacity and iNOS and COX-2 protein expression. pp 95-116. In: Emerging Trends in Dietary Components for Preventing and Combating Disease. B.S. Patil, G.K. Jayaprakash, and K.N.C. Murthy, editors. Division of Agricultural and Food Science. ACS Book Series.

Molan, A.L., Mary Ann Lila, and G. Ravindranl. 2010. Blueberries:  Genotype-dependent variation in antioxidant, free-radical scavenging, and prebiotic activities. P. 427-434. In: Current Research, Technology and Education Topics in Applied Microbiology and Microbial Biotechnology (Microbiology Book Series). A Mendez (Ed.). Formatex Publishers.

Lila, Mary Ann and Randy B. Rogers. 2010. Pigment production in Ajuga cell cultures. P. 285-289. In: (R.N. Trigiano, ed.) Plant Tissue Culture Development and Biotechnology, Chapter 42: 529-539. Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.

Lila, Mary Ann. 2010. Chapter 4: You are what you eat. P. 126-141. In: The DOLE Nutrition Handbook. What to eat and how to live for a longer, healthier life. Dole Nutrition Institute.

Lila, Mary Ann. 2008. Interactions between flavonoids that benefit human health. P. 305-324.  In: (K. Gould, K. Davies & C. Winefield, eds.) Anthocyanins: Biosynthesis, Function and Applications. Springer LCC, New York.


Recent Journal Articles

Plundrich, N., Grace, M.H., Raskin, I. and Lila, M.A. 2013. Bioactive polyphenols from muscadine grape and blackcurrant stably concentrated onto protein-rich matrices for topical applications. International Journal of Cosmetic Science (Epub ahead of print).

Grace, Mary H., Carmen Lategan, Rocky Graziose, Peter J. Smith, Ilya Raskin and Mary Ann Lila. 2012. Antiplasmodial activity of the ethnobotanical plant Cassia fistula. Natural Product Communications, 7: 1-4.

Cheng, Diana, Peter Kuhn, Alexander Poulev, Leonel E. Rojo, Mary Ann Lila and Ilya Raskin. 2012. In vivo and in vitro antidiabetic effects of aqueous cinnamon extract and cinnamon polyphenol-enhanced food matrix. Food Chemistry, 135: 2994-3002.

Gustafson, Sally J., Gad G. Yousef, Michael A. Grusak and Mary Ann Lila. 2012. Effect of postharvest handling practices on phytochemical concentrations and bioactive potential in wild blueberry fruit. The Journal of Berry Research: In Press

Grace, Mary H., Aaron R. Massey, Flaubert Mbeunkui, Gad G. Yousef and Mary Ann Lila. 2012. Comparison of health-relevant flavonoids in commonly consumed cranberry products. Journal of Food Science, 77: H176-H183.

Roopchand, Diana E., Peter Kuhn, Alex Poulev, Andrew Oren, Mary Ann Lila, Ilya Raskin. 2012. Biochemical analysis and in vivo hypoglycemic activity of grape polyphenol - soybean flour complex. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 60: 8860-8865.

Mbeunkui, Flaubert, Mary H. Grace, Gad G. Yousef and Mary Ann Lila. 2012. Isolation and characterization of flavonols from blackcurrant by HPCCC and LC-ESI/MS. Journal of Separation Science, 35: 1682-1689.

Graziose, Rocky, Patricio Rojas-Silva, ThirumuruganRathinasabapathy, Carment Dekock, Mary H. Grace, Alexander Poulev, Mary Ann Lila, Peter Smith and Ilya Raskin. 2012. Antiparasitic compounds from Cornus florida L. with activities against Plasmodium falciparum and Leishmania tarentolae. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 142: 456-461.

Cheng, Diana, Louis W. Kutzler, Dustin D. Boler, Jenny Drnevich, John Killefer and Mary Ann Lila. 2012. Continuous infusion of 20-hydroxyecdysone increased mass of triceps brachii in C57BL/6 mice. Phytotherapy Research: In Press.

Mbeunkui, Flaubert, Mary H. Grace and Mary Ann Lila. 2012. Isolation and structural elucidation of indole alkaloids from Geissospermum vellosii by mass spectrometry. Journal of Chromatography, B 885-886: 83-89.

Mbeunkui, Flaubert, Mary H. Grace, Carmen Lategan, Peter J. Smith, Ilya Raskin and Mary Ann Lila. 2012. In vitro antiplasmodial activity of indole alkaloids from the stem bark of Geissospermum vellosii. J Ethnopharmacology, 139: 471-477.

Lila, Mary Ann, David M. Ribnicky, Leonel E. Rojo, Patricio Rojas-Silva, Andrew Oren, Robert Havenaar, Elsa M. Janle, Ilya Raskin, Gad G. Yousef and Mary H. Grace. 2012. Complementary approaches to gauge the bioavailability and distribution of ingested berry polyphenolics. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 60: 5763-5771.

Roopchand, Diana E., Mary H. Grace, Peter Kuhn, Diana M. Cheng, Nathalie Plundrich, Alexander Poulev, Amy Howell, Bertold Fridlender, Mary Ann Lila, Ilya Raskin. 2012. Efficient sorption of polyphenols to soybean flour enables natural fortification of foods. Food Chemistry, 131: 1193-1200.

Rojo, Leonel E., David Ribnicky, Sithes Logendra, Alex Poulev, Patricio Rojas-Silva, Peter Kuhn, Ruth Dorn, Mary H. Grace, Mary Ann Lila, Ilya Raskin. 2012. In vitro and in vivo anti-diabetic effects of anthocyanins from Maqui Berry (Aristotelia chilensis). Food Chemistry, 131: 387-396.

Flint, Courtney, Josh Kellogg, Mallory Dolan, Lama BouFajreldin, Ewan Robinson, Gary Ferguson, Ilya Raskin and Mary Ann Lila. 2011. Promoting wellness in Alaskan villages: Integrating traditional knowledge and science of wild berries. EcoHealth, 8: 199-209.

Mbeunkui, Flaubert, Mary H. Grace, Carmen Lategan, Peter J. Smith, Ilya Raskin, Mary Ann Lila. 2011. Isolation and identification of antiplasmodial N-alkylamides from Spilanthes acmella flowers using centrifugal partition chromatography and ESI-IT-TOF-MS. Journal of Chromatography B, 879: 1886-1892.

Barnes, Stephen, Jeevan Prasain, Tracy D’Alessandro, Ali Arabshahi, Nigel Botting, Mary Ann Lila, George Jackson, Elsa Janle and Connie Weaver. 2011. The metabolism and analysis of isoflavones and other dietary polyphenols in foods and biological systems. Food and Function, 2(5): 235-244.

Lila, Mary Ann. 2011. Impact of bioflavonoids from berryfruits on biomarkers of metabolic syndrome. Functional Foods in Health and Disease, 2: 13-24.

Kellogg, Joshua, Clyde Higgs and Mary Ann Lila. 2011. Prospects for commercialization of an Alaska Native wild resource as a commodity crop. Journal of Entrepreneurship, 20: 77-101.

Graziose, Rocky, Thirumurugan Rathinasabapathy, Carmen Lategan, Alexander Poulev, Peter J. Smith, Mary H. Grace, Mary Ann Lila and Ilya Raskin. 2011. Antiplasmodial activity of aporphine alkaloids and sesquiterpene lactones from Liriodendron tulipifera L. J. Ethnopharmacology, 133(1): 26-30.

Grace, Mary H., Carmen Lategan, Flaubert Mbeunkui, Rocky Graziose, Peter J. Smith, Ilya Raskin and Mary Ann Lila. 2010. Antiplasmodial and cytotoxic activities of drimane sesquiterpenes from Canella winterana. Journal of Natural Product Communications, 5(12): 1869-1872.

Cheng, Diana M., Gad G. Yousef and Mary Ann Lila. 2010. Variation in phytoecdysteroid accumulation in seeds and shoots of Spinacia oleracea L. accessions. HortScience, 45: 1-5.

Cuevas-Rodrigues, Edith, V. Dia, G. Yousef, P. Garcia-Saucedo, J. Lopez-Medina, O. Paredes-Lopez, E. de Mejia and M.A. Lila. 2010. Inhibition of pro-inflammatory responses and antioxidant capacity of Mexican blackberry (Rubus spp.) extracts. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 58(17): 9542-9548.

Engelmann, Nancy, J. Campbell, S. Rupassara, R. Rogers, P. Garlick, M.A. Lila and J. W. Erdman, Jr. 2010. Screening and selection of high carotenoid producing in vitro tomato cell culture lines for [13C]-carotenoid production. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 58: 9979-9987.

Schrenckinger, Maria Elisa, J. Wang, G. Yousef, M.A. Lila and E. de Mejia. 2010. Antioxidant capacity and in vitro inhibition of adipogenesis and inflammation by phenolic extracts of Vaccinium floribundum and Aristotelia chilensis. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 58: 8966-8976.

Kellogg, Joshua, Gili Joseph, Kerstin Andrae-Marobela, Angelina Sosome, Courtney Flint, Slavko Kormarnytsky, Georgie Fear, Lena Struwe, Ilya Raskin and Mary Ann Lila. 2010. Simple, predictive field bioassays enable transdisciplinary science education and lead students in the quest for biodiscovery. NACTA Journal, 54: 41-48.

Mun, Jonathan G, Michael D. Grannan, Pamela J. Lachcik, Randy B. Rogers, Gad G. Yousef, Mary H. Grace, Elsa M. Janle, Qing Li Wu, James E. Simon, Connie M. Weaver and Mary Ann Lila. Tracking deposition of a 14C-radiolabeled hairy root-derived isoflavone-rich fraction into bone. Experimental Biology and Medicine, 235: 1224-1235.

Newell, Amanda M.B., Gad G. Yousef, Mary Ann Lila, Marco Vinicio Ramirez-Mares and Elvira Gonzalez de Mejia. 2010. Comparative in vitro activities of tea extracts from six species of Ardisia and their effect on growth inhibition of HepG2 cells. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 130: 536-544.

Cuevas-Rodríguez, Edith O., Gad G. Yousef, Pedro A. García-Saucedo, José López-Medina, Octavio Paredes-López and Mary Ann Lila. 2010. Characterization of anthocyanins and proanthocyanidins in wild and domesticated Mexican blackberries (Rubus spp.). Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 58(12): 7458-7464.

Rojo, Leonel, Caren Villano, G. Joseph, B. Schmidt, V. Shulaev, Mary Ann Lila and Ilya Raskin. 2010. Wound healing properties of fatty acids from Pouteria lucumae. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, 9: 185-195.

Schrenkinger, Maria Elisa, Jennifer Lotton, Mary Ann Lila and Elvira Gonzalez de Mejia. 2010. Berries from South America a Comprehensive Review on: Chemistry, Health Implications and Commercialization. Journal of Medicinal Food, 13(2): 233-246.

Kellogg, Joshua, Jinzhi Wang, Courtney Flint, David Ribnicky, Peter Kuhn, Elvira González De Mejia, Ilya Raskin and Mary Ann Lila. 2010. Alaskan wild berry resources and human health under the cloud of climate change. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 58(7): 3884-3900.

Janle, Elsa M., Mary Ann Lila, Michael Grannan, Lauren Wood, Aine Higgins, Gad. G. Yousef, Randy B. Rogers, Helen Kim, George S. Jackson, Lap Ho and Connie Weaver. 2010. Bioavailability, distribution and pharmacokinetics of 14C labeled grape polyphenols in the periphery and in the central nervous system following oral administration. Journal of Medicinal Food, 13: 1-8.

Graziose, Rocky, Mary Ann Lila and Ilya Raskin. 2010. Merging traditional Chinese medicine with modern drug discovery technologies to find novel drugs and functional foods.  Current Drug Discovery Technologies, 7: 2-12.

Janle, Elsa M., Mary Ann Lila, Michael Grannan, Lauren Wood, Aine Higgins, Gad G. Yousef, Randy B. Rogers, Helen Kim, George S. Jackson, Connie M. Weaver. 2010. Method for evaluating the potential of 14C labeled plant polyphenols to cross the blood-brain barrier using accelerator mass spectrometry. Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research.  B. Beam Interaction with Materials and Atoms. NIMPR, 268: 1313-1316.

Weaver, Connie M., Steve Barnes, James M. Wyss, Helen Kim, D. M. Morre, D.J. Morre, James E. Simon, Mary Ann Lila, Elsa Janle and Mario Ferruzzi. 2009. Research highlights from the Purdue-UAB Botanicals Research Center for Age-related Diseases. Pharmceutical Biology, 47: 768-773. PMID: 19890436.

Grace, Mary, Gad G. Yousef, A. Kurmukov, Ilya Raskin and Mary Ann Lila. 2009. Phytochemical characterization and antihypoxic efficacy of an active extract of Rhodiola heterodonta. Natural Product Communications, 4: 1053-1058.

Mun, J., Michael Grannan, Pamela Lachcik, Adam Reppert, Gad G. Yousef, Randy B. Rogers, Elsa M. Janle, Connie M. Weaver and Mary Ann Lila. 2009. In vivo metabolic tracking of 14C-labeled isoflavones in kudzu and red clover extracts. British Journal of Nutrition, 102: 1523–1530.

Engelmann, Nancy J., Adam Reppert, Gad Yousef, Randy Rogers and Mary Ann Lila. 2009. In vitro production of radiolabeled red clover (Trifolium pratense) isoflavones. Plant Cell Tissue & Organ Culture, 98: 147-156.

Molan, Abdul, Mary Ann Lila, John Mawson and Shampa De. 2009. In vitro and in vivo evaluation of the prebiotic activity of water-soluble blueberry extracts. World Journal of Microbiology and Biotechnology, 25: 1243-1249.

Grace, M., David M. Ribnicky, Peter Kuhn, Alex Poulev, Sithes Logendra, Gad G. Yousef, Ilya Raskin and Mary Ann Lila. 2009. Hypoglycemic activity of a novel anthocyanin-rich formulation from lowbush blueberry, Vaccinium angustifolium Aiton. Phytomedicine, 16: 406-415.

Engelmann, Nancy J., Randy Rogers, Mary Ann Lila and John Erdman, Jr. 2009. Herbicide treatments alter carotenoid profiles for 14C tracer production from tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum) cell cultures. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 57: 4614-4619.

Lu, Chi-Hua, Nancy J. Engelmann, Mary Ann Lila and John W. Erdman, Jr. 2008. Optimization of lycopene extraction from tomato cell suspension culture by response surface methodology. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 56: 7710-7714.

Reppert, Adam, Gad G. Yousef, Randy B. Rogers and Mary Ann Lila. 2008. Isolation of biolabeled isoflavones from kudzu (Pueraria lobata) root cultures. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 56: 7860-7865.

Grace, Mary, Diana Cheng, Ilya Raskin and Mary Ann Lila. 2008. Neo-Clerodane diterpenes from Ajuga turkestanica. Phytochemistry Letters, 1: 81-84.

Gorelick-Feldman, Jonathan, David MacLean, Nebojsa Ilic, Alexander Poulev, Mary Ann Lila, Diana Cheng and Ilya Raskin. 2008. Phytoecdysteroids increase protein synthesis in skeletal muscle cells. Journal of Agricultural & Food Chemistry, 56: 3532-3537.

Cheng, Diana, Gad. G. Yousef, Mary H. Grace, Randy B. Rogers, J. Gorelick-Feldman, I. Raskin and Mary Ann Lila. 2008. In vitro production of metabolism-enhancing phytoecdysteroids from Ajuga turkestanica. Plant Cell Tissue and Organ Culture, 93: 73-83.

Alwerdt, Jessica, D.S. Seigler, Elvira Gonzalez de Mejia, Gad G. Yousef and Mary Ann Lila. 2008. The influence of alternative liquid chromatography techniques on chemical complexity and bioactivity of separated proanthocyanidin mixtures. Journal of Agricultural & Food Chemistry, 56: 1896-1906.

Weaver, Connie M., Stephen Barnes, J. Michael Wyss, Helen Kim, Dorothy M. Morré, D. James Morré, James E. Simon, Mary Ann Lila, Elsa M. Janle and Mario G. Ferruzzi. 2008. Botanicals for age related diseases: from field to practice. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 87: 493S-497S.

Aparicio-Fernández, Xochitl, Rosalia Reynoso-Camacho, Eduardo Castaño-Tostado, Teresa García-Gasca, Elvira González de Mejía, Horacio Guzmán-Maldonado, Guillermo Elizondo, Gad Gabra Yousef, Mary Ann Lila and Guadalupe Loarca-Pina. 2008. Antiradical capacity and induction of apoptosis in HeLa cells by a Phaseolus vulgaris extract. Plant Foods for Human Nutrition, 63: 35-40.

Kraft, Tristan F. Burns, David M. Ribnicky, Randy B. Rogers, Moul Dey, Will Cefalu, David M. Gipp, Ilya Raskin and Mary Ann Lila. 2008. Phytochemical composition and metabolic performance enhancing activity of dietary berries traditionally used by native North Americans. Journal of Agricultural & Food Chemistry, 56: 654-600.

Dey, Moul, C. Ripoll, R. Pouleva, R. Dorn, I. Aranovich, D Zaurov, A Kurmukov, M. Eliseyeva, I. Belolipov, A. Akimaliev, I. Sodombekov, D. Akimaliev, M.A. Lila and I. Raskin. 2008. Plant extracts from Central Asia showing anti-inflammatory activities in gene expression assays. Phytotherapy Research, 22: 929-934.

Molan, A., Mary Ann Lila and John Mawson. 2008. Satiety in rats following blueberry extract consumption induced by appetite-suppressing mechanisms unrelated to in vitro or in vivo antioxidant capacity. Food Chemistry, 107: 1039-1044.

Lab Staff

LilaLab at the N.C. Research Campus - July 2012

Debora Esposito

Mary Grace

Gad Yousef

Josh Kellogg

Nathalie Plundrich

Maggie Schneider

Lorie Solomon-Beale

Michael Timmers

Charles Warlick

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