Pharmaceutical Botany. Coordinator: Poli

Achieve a deeper knowledge of plants through a 'global to particular' approach, in relation to the importance played by plants for humans and environment.

Research themes

1. Study of plant secondary metabolites and their biological activities

This line of research concerns the identification of biologically active metabolites produced by plants. In addition to the classical methods of phytochemistry involving bio-guided assay fractionation, these studies are also addressed through 'omics' approach, which is based on the treatment of metadata through the development of appropriate multivariate analysis models. In this way, phytochemical-metabolomic data, related to a large number of samples, are corelated to their respective biological activities. This inductive approach allows to extract a wide range of information in a short time and with a limited number of preparatory steps, resulting in low consumption of materials and solvents. This type of studies, although starting from the analysis of metabolites in a mixture (metabolomics), does not exclude their possible purification both to confirm the hypotheses provided by multivariate analysis and for the structural elucidation of the metabolites of interest.

2. Quality control of spices, herbs and botanicals.

This line of research deals with the development of protocols for quality control of different natural products. The analyses developed are based, first of all, on microscopy employed for product authentication and identification of possible contaminants. This control is also implemented through qualitative and quantitative analysis of phytochemical markers carried out by HPLC, and, especially, through NMR-metabolomic analysis, which allows to develop chemometric models, able to predict the quality of a herbal product on the basis of its phytochemical profile.

3. Plant-environment interactions studies

The study of plant secondary metabolites is also important for another research line dealing with the biological significance of these metabolites, and the variation of their content in the plant in relation to biotic and abiotic factors. This study is mainly addressed with a metabolomic approach, correlating the phytochemical-metabolomic profiles of plants to the variation of different monitored factors, with application in the field of smart agriculture and chemical ecology.

4. Valorization of wastes and by-products derived from plants industrial processing.

This line of research is related to the implementation of circular economy strategies of in view of a more sustainable development. Wastes and by-products from different industrial sectors, such as agro-food, perfumery and herbal industry, are analyzed both from the point of view of phytochemical and biological activities, in order to investigate their potential use in different areas (e.g. cosmetic, veterinary, agronomic, etc ...) and their consequent valorization.

5. Ethnopharmacobotanical research on plants used in traditional medicine and enhancement of local biodiversity

The ethnobotanical research is one of the main resources for the identification of plants of pharmaceutical and nutraceutical interest, assuming also that the prolonged use over the centuries can give more guarantees on the safety profile. This line of research aims to obtain information about the use of a specific plant in traditional medicine, and it is of particular interest in areas characterized by high biodiversity, such as some Mediterranean regions (e.g. Sardinia), India and Africa. In order to enhance local biodiversity, many ethnobotanical studies are also conducted in the hill area of Bologna and its province. The selected plants are then often subjected to more detailed studies concerning the phytochemical composition and biological activities.

Key words: medicinal plants, ethnobotany, phytochemistry, metabolomics, biological activities, quality control, circular economy, smart agriculture.

Lab Members

Ferruccio Poli,  Full Professor

Mandrone Manuela, Senior Assistant Professor

Ilaria Chiocchio, Research Fellow

Augusto Nosela , PhD Student

Simona Trincia, PhD Student

Internship projects

Availability of two positions for students graduating in Pharmacy and CTF and Applied Pharmaceutical Sciences curriculum Herbal Techniques (project to be agreed upon).

Main publications:

  • Salomé-Abarca L. F., Mandrone M., Sanna C., Poli F., van der Hondel C.A., Klinkhamer P. G., Choi, Y. H. Metabolic variation in Cistus monspeliensis ecotypes correlated to their plant-fungal interactions. Phytochemistry 2020176: 112402.
  • Chiocchio I., Prata C., Mandrone M., Ricciardiello F., Marrazzo P., Tomasi P., Angeloni C., Fiorentini D., Malaguti M., Poli F., Hrelia S. Leaves and spiny burs of Castanea sativa from an experimental chestnut grove: metabolomic analysis and anti-neuroinflammatory activity. Metabolites 2020, 10:1-14.
  • Mandrone M., Marincich L., Chiocchio I., Petroli A., Gođevac D., Maresca I., Poli F. NMR-based metabolomic approach for frauds detection and quality control of oregano samples. Food Chemistry 2021, 127, 108141.
  • CHIOCCHIO I., MANDRONE M., TOMASI P., MARINCICH L., POLI F., Plant secondary metabolites: an opportunity for circular economy. Molecules, 2021, 26 (2), 495.
  • MANDRONE M., CHIOCCHIO I., BARBANTI L., TOMASI P., TACCHINI M., POLI F. Metabolomic profile of sorghum (S. bicolor) to interpret plant behavior under variable field conditions in view of smart agriculture applications. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 2021,69(3), 1132−1145.