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Research unit of Prof. Gelsomina Fico  

Structured staff: Prof. Gelsomina Fico

The research activity concerns a wide spectrum of themes listed below in brief.

 Morphological and chemical characterisation of medicinal and food plants. The researches aimed at the study of plant biodiversity are intended to describe species of medicinal and food interest from the morphological (through the use of light and electron microscopy) and chemical (extraction and isolation of secondary metabolites with quantitative analysis) point of view.

 S. Vitalini, A. Braca, G. Fico (2012). Investigation on the flavonoid composition of Aconitum angustifolium Bernh. flowers and leaves, Phytochemistry letters 5: 476-479

S. Vitalini, A. Braca, G. Fico (2011). Study on secondary metabolite content of Helleborus nigerL. leaves.Fitoterapia 82: 152-154

S. De Marino, F. Gala, F. Zollo, S. Vitalini, G. Fico, F. Visioli, M. Iorizzi(2008). Identification of minor secondary metabolites from the latex of Croton lechleri (Muell-Arg) and evaluation of their antioxidant activity. Molecules13(6): 1219-1229

 Secondary metabolites production in relation to ecological and physiological aspects. The production of secondary metabolites in relation to some environmental and/or endogenous factors is studied; biosynthesis and accumulation of secondary metabolism compounds can be affected by various factors, such as, for example, climate, edaphic conditions, habitat in general, stress factors (H2O shortage, pathogens) or by endogenous rhythms of the plant itself which may vary over the course of the ontogenetic cycle and, therefore, with plant’s age. Such factors are of great practical interest when we consider the issue of optimizing the collection of plants, or parts of them, with a high content of active compounds.

 S. Vitalini, G. Flamini, A. Valaguzza, G. Rodondi, M. Iriti, G. Fico (2011). Primula spectabilis Tratt. aerial parts: morphology, volatile compounds and flavonoids. Phytochemistry 72: 1371-1378

 Biological activity of compounds of plant origin. Biological assays are aimed to study in depth the role of secondary metabolites in the vital economy of the plant and to investigate their therapeutic potential for human. In particular, the research team performs in-vitro tests for the evaluation of antimicrobial, antifungal and antioxidant activity of commercial plant material from cultivated or spontaneous individuals (crude extracts, fractions and pure compounds properly isolated).

 S. Vitalini, C. Gardana, P. Simonetti, G. Fico, M. Iriti (2013). Melatonin, melatonin isomers and stilbenes in Italian traditional grape products and their antiradical capacity. Journal of Pineal Research 54(3):322-333

S. Vitalini, G. Beretta, M. Iriti, S. Orsenigo, N. Basilico, S. Dall'Acqua, M. Iorizzi, G. Fico (2011).Phenolic compounds from Achillea millefolium L. and their bioactivity. Acta biochimica Polonica 58 (2): 203-219

C. Mariani, A. Braca, S. Vitalini, N. De Tommasi, F. Visioli, G. Fico (2008). Flavonoid characterization and in vitro antioxidant activity of Aconitum anthora L.
(Ranunculaceae). Phytochemistry 69(5): 1220-1226

 Biosystematics. Proper botanical characterisation of entities is of primary importance not only for basic research, but also from a practical point of view: to avoid confusion between similar species with different content in active principles, any adulteration, improper use of drugs and for a more targeted use of plants. In particular, the research team studies some critical entities of Italian Flora in relation to some biosystematics issues using different methodological approaches: morphological, chemical and biomolecular.

 S. Vitalini, A. Braca, D. Passarella, G. Fico (2010). New flavonol glycosides from Aconitum burnatii Gáyer and Aconitum variegatum L. Fitoterapia 81: 940-947

  Effects of treatments with resistance inducers on the synthesis of secondary metabolites in species of medicinal and food interest. Resistance inducers are a novel class of products employed in agriculture able to elicit the plant’s own defence mechanisms against pathogens. Differently from conventional agrochemicals, they do not exert a direct antibiotic activity to pathogens, but they may prevent infection before the pathogen challenging. Furthermore, their practical use incurs in minor toxicological risks by comparison with agrochemicals. Among resistance inducers, chitosan, a deacetylated chitin derivative, deserves particular attention because of its efficacy and ability to stimulate the biosynthesis of bioactive phytochemicals in plant. The research team carries out studies related to the use of resistance inducers (eg, chitosan and BTH), which result in an increased production of polyphenols in plant species of commercial interest, in particular Vitis vinifera (Groppello: cultivar native to Lombardy) and Humulus lupulus (different cultivars grown in Italy only recently).

 S. Vitalini, C. Gardana, A. Zanzotto, G. Fico, F. Faoro, P. Simonetti, M. Iriti (2011). From vineyard to glass: agrochemicals enhance the melatonin content, total polyphenols and antiradical activity of red wines. Journal of Pineal Research 51(3):278-85

M. Iriti, G. Castorina, S. Vitalini, I. Mignani, C. Soave, G. Fico, F. Faoro (2010). Chitosan-induced, ethylene-independent resistance does not reduce crop yield in bean plants. Biological Control 54: 241-247

 Ethnobotany. Our studies on recovering plant species knowledge of use in folk medicine, nutrition, for ritual purposes and care of animals are set in the context of preservation and valorisation of biodiversity, meant in a broader sense as cultural biodiversity. Such studies represent the basis of phytochemical studies for the characterisation of plant species never investigated and for the validation/confutation of the biological activity established.

 S. Vitalini, M. Iriti, C. Puricelli, D. Ciuchi, A. Segale, G. Fico (2013).Traditional knowledge on medicinal and food plants used in Val San Giacomo (Sondrio, Italy): an alpine ethnobotanical study. J. Ethnopharmacol. 30;145(2):517-29

M. Iriti, S. Vitalini, G. Fico, F. Faoro (2010). Neuroprotective herbs and foods from different traditional medicines and diets. Molecules 15: 3517-3555

S. Vitalini, F. Tomè, G. Fico (2009). Traditional uses of medicinal plants in Valvestino (Italy). Journal of Ethnopharmacology 121: 106-116

 Research at "Giordano Emilio Ghirardi" Botanical Garden. The botanical garden Prof. G. Fico is scientific director of since 2003 is located in Toscolano Maderno (Brescia). It was founded in 1964 as an Experimental botanical station of the Milanese pharmaceutical company SIMES (Italian Society of Medicinal and Synthetic ), at its owner behest, Giordano Emilio Ghirardi, to grow hard-to-find species containing cardiac and anticancer active compounds. Among these species Camptotheca acuminata, the symbol of the garden, which contains antitumor principles and was introduced for the first time in Italy at the garden itself. To find the seeds, Ghirardi sent men all over the world and maintained bonds with famous people like the ethnoiatrist Antonio Scarpa who, from Amazonas, sent the seeds of the species used by local populations. This testifies to the great variety of species that can be found in the garden. When  SIMES was sold, the owner kept the botanical garden for scientific research. In 1991, it was donated to the University of Milan, with the precondition to maintain study and research on medicinal plants. Since 2013, the botanical garden is managed by the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences. It is located 70 meters above sea level and it is 10,000 square meters wide. The medicinal species amount to about 400 and are not grouped according to systematic, phytogeographic or landscaping criteria, but are left in the flowerbeds where they had originally been planted. The ongoing research has been conducted over the time on several entities, such as some species belonging to the Lamiaceae family, Nigella damascena and Vitis vinifera cv. Groppello, which grow in the garden or are cultivated at the experimental field it holds. 

S. Vitalini, C. Gardana, A. Zanzotto, P. Simonetti, F. Faoro, G. Fico, M. Iriti (2011). The presence of melatonin in grapevine (Vitis vinifera L.) berry tissues. Journal of Pineal Research 51(3):331-7


Dipartimento di Farmacia, Università di Pisa

Dipartimento di Bioscienze, Università degli Studi di Milano

Dipartimento di Scienze Agrarie e Ambientali, Università degli Studi di Milano

Dipartimento di Scienze Farmaceutiche, Università di Salerno

Dipartimento di Scienze Farmaceutiche, Università di Padova

Dipartimento di Biologia Vegetale e Biotecnologie Agroambientali e Zootecniche, Università degli Studi di Perugia

Dipartimento di Chimica delle Sostanze Naturali, Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II

Dipartimento di Farmacologia sperimentale, Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II

Dipartimento di Scienze e Tecnologie per l’Ambiente e il Territorio, Università degli Studi del Molise

UMR7079, Université Pierre e Marie Curie, Parigi

Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Al-Zaytoonah University of Jordan

Servizio Beni Culturali, Fondazione IRCCS Ca’ Granda Ospedale Maggiore Policlinico



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