Our Projects

LS9 researchers are involved in a number of different interdisciplinary projects. The detection, quantification, stability and the bioactivity evaluation of plant secondary metabolites are usually performed both in plant matrices, foods, concentrated extracts and biological fluids of human and animal origin.

Raspberries – WRRC. Raspberries are especially rich in anthocyanins and ellagitannins, most of which after consumption pass from the small to the large intestine where they are subject to the action of the colonic microflora. So why do not study their actual potential nutritional and health benefits? That’s what we will make next year, with the help of a research grant awarded by the Washington Red Raspberry Commission based in Lynden, WA. Selected phenolic catabolites and urolithin metabolites, which represent the actual circulating forms in humans after consumption of raspberries, will be tested for specific bioactivity in different experimental models (insulin secretion, antiglycation, atherogenesis, effects on cultured cardiac cells in hyperglicemic conditions) to address their putative effects and mechanisms of action in the context of diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. Furthermore, different urolithins obtained from gut metabolism of red raspberry ingestion will be screened for their effects on reverse cholesterol transport, endothelial function, haemostasis and neurodegeneration in vitro. The successful demonstration of such bioactivity would justify the expense of focussed intervention studies with human subjects to investigate potential protective effects in vivo.

AgerVino 2012 – 2014  AGER (Bank Foundations) Project “Valorisation of winemaking by-products and waste by application of innovative technologies for extraction of natural products of high added value”

Masked Mycotoxins. FIRB 2008 Futuro in Ricerca Project: Ruolo dell’interazione pianta-patogeno nel meccanismo di mascheramento delle micotossine prodotte da Fusarium in mais. The project aims to identify the mechanism underlying the masking of fumonisin in corn by studying the relationships between plants and pathogen microorganisms in open field. In particular, through mass spectrometric metabolomic, lipidomic and proteomic analyses the goal is to evaluate the variation and distribution of free and masked (as a result of metabolism by the plant) aflatoxins both in different commercial varieties of Zea mays during growth and in food.

Fraxinus Manna – This biblical food ingredient, collected in semi-wild orchards in a very limited area in Sicily, is at present under-utilized as a consequence of different factors, including the lack of reliable informations regarding its actual composition, quality control and nutritional properties. Nevertheless it has been recently included in various commercial foods as sweetener. We look forard to provide a complete description of the lipidic, sugar and phenolic composition of different commercial grades of manna from Fraxinus excelsior L. and of counterfeit commercial samples. Despite its lasting traditional and commercial use, an adequate chemical characterization of such product is not available in the literature and most of the information is anedoctal.

Ayurprint PRIN-2009LR9YLF, funded by MIUR. The effects on human health of Ayurvedic formulations are well described in the ethnobotanical literature, but the biological basis proving their efficacy is still poorly investigated. Despite this lack of knowledge, often associated with a incoherent and  fragmented research, several plants belonging to the Ayurveda are commercially available in food supplements distributed within the EU. This project aims at increasing the knowledge of botanical sources of Ayurvedic medicines and their quality control. Herbal drugs are investigated with a specific focus on their decoction, being this preparation an elective method in Ayurveda. Phytochemical characterization followed by a bioassay-guided approach is performed to identify bioactive compounds involved in purported chemopreventive activities.

MM ‘n S – Molecular Markers in Spices – Fraud is a common practice carried out in the spice trade since the very beginning of commerce and such proclivity cannot be overlooked nowadays, in the framework of complex, global supply chains that steadily emphasize the gap between producers, suppliers and consumers. After a focus on Origanum vulgare and its adulterants, our work is at present devoted to Crocus sativus, saffron. Within this context we have developed a specific experience acquired in setting up protocols for DNA extraction, RAPD-PCR analysis and SCAR markers development from dried, degraded and diffucult plant materials. The final goal is to obtain fast and reliable diagnostic tools for the pre-emptive rejection of suspect samples during quality control or food product screening, thus reducing the number of samples to be evaluated by means of pharmacognostic analyses and providing useful data for further molecular diagnostic tools

iHope – The project aims to create the scientific basis to support cultivation of Humulus lupulus in Northern Italy. It provides for applied research along three main lines: a) the breeding of new varieties starting from Italian germplasm, guided by phytochemical and organoleptic composition; b) the development of novel metabolomic analytical methods to be used in the creation of industrial blends and based on chromatography and NMR; c) the accurate assessment of the possible uses of hop agroindustrial by-products.

The LS9 Interlab group also actively collaborates with some of the most relevant Italian food companies (Ferrero, Barilla….).