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Research Center for the Characterization and Safe Use of Natural Products – Giovanni Galli  



Prof. Donatella Caruso

Scientific committee
Emanuela Corsini
Mario Dell’Agli
Corrado Ludovico Galli
Franco Maggi
Marina Marinovich
Giorgio Racagni
Patrizia Restani
Enrica Bosisio
Paolo Morazzoni


Research topics

Aim of the Center is to promote studies and research on analytical, toxicological, and legal aspects regarding extracts and active principles from natural with particular attention to the biological activity, phytochemical characterization, and safe use. In addition the center is involved in the dissemination of information in the field of natural products, such as the organization of workshops on specific topics, including phytoestrogens, green tea, hypericum, and the application of Solid Phase Matrix Extraction (SPME) technique in food analysis. HPLC and mass spectrometry techniques are applied to determine specific markers for plant extracts in complex matrices. In addition, analyses of plant extracts are currently performed. LC- or GC-Mass spectrometry is currently used for the characterization of macromolecules of biological interest. 


Research activity


The research activity of the laboratory is devoted to the study of natural products derived from medicinal or edible plants. The approach combines pharmacological and phytochemical investigations, in order to connect a biological effect to a specific chemical entity. Phenols from olive oil, tannins of Pomegranate, flavonoids from Chamomile, red wine procyanidins, and polyphenols from berry fruits are among natural products currently under investigation

1) Anti-inflammatory activity of plant polyphenols

Several biological assays have been developed for investigating the effects of plant extracts and isolated compounds on proteinease involved in gastro-intestinal inflammation, such as elastase and metalloproteinase-9 activity. The research is also focused on the effects of natural compounds against other pro-inflammatory mediators, including the expression of adhesion molecules (ICAM-1, VCAM-1, E-Selectin), growth factors and cytokines secretion, and NF-kB driven transcription and nuclear translocation in a variety of human cell lines and tissues.

2) Screening of plant extracts for the discovery of new antimalarials

The assay for testing the activity of the recombinant forms of plasmepsins, aspartic proteases of Plasmodium falciparum, were developed and used for the screening of natural products. Several natural compounds are selected through the ethnopharmacological or ethnobotanical approach.

3) Topic activity of plant products

This research is directed to identify plant constituent to be topically applied for their anti-inflammatory activity. cAMP-phosphodiesterase inhibitors, which are able to stimulate lipolysis in the adipose tissue, may be used in formulations for the treatment of localized adiposity. In addition, several methods to test in vitro the anti-inflammatory activity of natural compounds in human keratinocytes have been recently developed.

Safety assessment

The Centre is also involved in the safety assessment of natural extracts and their active ingredients whether they are intended for cosmetic, pharmaceutical or nutritional. Particular attention is also paid on the molecular mechanisms of action through the use of representative cellular systems. Another objective of the research is the risk and benefit assessment of food supplements containing plants or derivatives.



Dipartimento di Scienze farmacologiche e biomolecolari
Via Balzaretti, 9
20133 Milano












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