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Laboratory of Pharmacognosy  

lab Prof. Dell'Agli


Research topics

The research activity 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. 

The main areas of interest can be condensed as follows:
1) Anti-inflammatory activity of plant polyphenols
The research activity involves the effect of plant-based extracts and pure molecules against mediators of gastro-intestinal inflammations, such as adhesion molecules (ICAM-1, VCAM-1), proteases (MMP-9), pro-inflammatory cytokines (IL-8, IL-6), and the effect on nuclear transcription factors and gene expression, in numerous cell lines and tissues.
2) Topical activity of plant products
This research is aimed at identifying plant extracts and pure molecules with anti-inflammatory properties or active in the treatment of wounds, even of bacterial origin. Numerous in vitro assays have been developed to study the effects on human keratinocytes, fibroblasts and microvascular cells, in relation to skin inflammation induced by endogenous inflammatory mediators, UV rays or by hypoxic conditions.
3) Research of biological activities by an ethnopharmacological approach
Several plants are studied by an ethnopharmacological and ethnobotanical approach, to validate the antimalarial effects (against Plasmodium falciparumand the inflammation of severe malaria) or the anti-inflammatory properties on the cutaneous or gastrointestinal districts.


The research activity is based on the use of different lines of human cell cultures and the preparation of extracts from plant matrices.
A list of the main techniques used:

  • Extraction, isolation and purification of natural compounds
  • Bioguided-fractionation of crude extracts
  • In vitro simulated gastrointestinal digestion
  • Maintenance of cell cultures, and transient transfection
  • DNA and RNA extraction
  • PCR, RT-PCR, and electrophoresis
  • ELISA assays ((NF-κB translocation, cytokine and chemokine secretion)
  • Flow cytometry (adhesion molecules)
  • Preparation of recombinant proteins and purification by FPLC
  • HPLC and LC-MS/MS analysis
  • In vivo models to test anti-inflammatory activity at the gastro-intestinal level
  • In vitro test for measuring antioxidant activity in cells and tissues (ORAC, SOD, CAT, MDA, FRAP, DPPH)


A list of the main collaborators:

  • Prof. Verena Dirsch, Universität Wien
  • Prof. Gary Williamson, University of Leeds
  • Prof. Urška Vrhovšek, Edmund Mach Foundation
  • Prof. Jules-Roger Kuiate – Prof. Gabriel Agbor, Institute of Medical Research and the Study of Medicinal Plant
  • Prof. Ben Dunn, College of medicine, University of Florida
  • Prof. Gabriela Mazzanti, Università degli Studi di Roma - La Sapienza
  • Prof. Fulvio Mattivi. Università degli Studi di Trento
  • Prof. Massimo Labra, Università degli Studi di Milano-Bicocca
  • Dr. Michele D’Ambrosio, Università degli Studi di Trento
  • Dr. Luisella Verotta, Università degli Studi di Milano
  • Prof. Enzo Tramontano, Università degli Studi di Cagliari
  • Prof. Fulvio Esposito – Prof. Annette Habluetzel, Università degli Studi di Camerino 

Selected publications

  1. Khalilpour, S., Sangiovanni, E., Piazza, S., Fumagalli, M., Beretta, G., & Dell'Agli, M. (2019). In vitro evidences of the traditional use of Rhus coriaria L. fruits against skin inflammatory conditions. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 111829. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2019.111829 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30917928
  2. Sangiovanni, E., Piazza, S., Vrhovsek, U., Fumagalli, M., Khalilpour, S., Masuero, D., Di Lorenzo, C., Colombo, L., Mattivi, F., De Fabiani, E., & Dell'Agli, M. (2018). A bio-guided approach for the development of a chestnut-based proanthocyanidin-enriched nutraceutical with potential anti-gastritis properties. Pharmacol Res. doi:10.1016/j.phrs.2018.06.016 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29928974
  3. Fumagalli, M., Sangiovanni, E., Vrhovsek, U., Piazza, S., Colombo, E., Gasperotti, M., Mattivi, F., De Fabiani, E., & Dell'Agli, M. (2016). Strawberry tannins inhibit IL-8 secretion in a cell model of gastric inflammation. Pharmacol Res, 111, 703-712. doi:10.1016/j.phrs.2016.07.028 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27473819
  4. Muto, E., Dell'Agli, M., Sangiovanni, E., Mitro, N., Fumagalli, M., Crestani, M., De Fabiani, E., & Caruso, D. (2015). Olive oil phenolic extract regulates interleukin-8 expression by transcriptional and posttranscriptional mechanisms in Caco-2 cells. Mol Nutr Food Res. doi:10.1002/mnfr.201400800 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25708117
  5. Dell’Agli, M., Di Lorenzo, C., Badea, M., Sangiovanni, E., Dima, L., Bosisio, E., & Restani, P. (2013). Plant food supplements with anti-inflammatory properties: a systematic review (I). Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr, 53, 403-413. doi:10.1080/10408398.2012.682123 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23320910
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