Dipartimento di
Farmacia e Scienze della Salute e della Nutrizione
Dipartimento di Eccellenza L. 232/2016

  • Dipartimento di Farmacia e Scienze della Salute e della Nutrizione


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Linee di Ricerca del Dipartimento di Farmacia e Scienze della Salute e della Nutrizione
Area 03 – Scienze Chimiche
Research topic 1: Food Science
Application of analytical techniques to determine the chemical composition of food during shelf-life. Assessment of the impact of technological processes on the overall quality of food with particular emphasis on antioxidant and anti-browning compounds. Design and formulation of functional foods, including fermented foods and study of their biochemical activities. Recovery of bioactive compounds, including prebiotics and bioactive lipids from local plants and agri-food wastes and delivery in foods and beverages by polymeric conjugation.
Keywords: Food analysis; Food Processing; Shelf life of food; Functional food; Bioactive compounds; Valorization of agri-food wastes.
Research topic 2: Organic and Bioorganic Chemistry
Omics profiling, identification and measurement of organic molecules in complex natural matrices by high resolution nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy and mass spectrometry. Design, synthesis and characterization of biomolecules and bioconjugates with potential pharmaceutical interest. Developing Green Chemistry in API synthesis.
Keywords: Omics, NMR, Mass spectrometry, Bioconjugates, Amino acids, Peptide synthesis, tumor-targeting peptides, green chemistry, deep eutectic solvents.
Research topic 3: Drug Analysis and Monitoring
Elaboration of stability-indicating methods for the monitoring of the photodegradation profile of the photosensitive drugs, according to the ICH rules. Study of photostabilization systems for photosensitive drugs. Development and application of multivariate analysis techniques on pharmaceutical and food complex matrices. Multivariate modelling is performed to analyse big data matrices from experimental measurements to predict features and classify drug and food samples.
Keywords: Drug photodegradation, Drug photostabilization, Multivariate analysis.
Research topic 4: Drug Design and Synthesis
Application of computer-aided methods to the design of heterocyclic small molecules potentially endowed with biological activity. Design, synthesis and biological evaluation of novel drug candidates in the anticancer, antiviral, cardiovascular research fields and diabetes. Study and biological evaluation of nutraceuticals. Valorisation of agro-food wastes by the development of new ingredients for innovative Functional Foods.
Keywords: Drug design, Molecular modelling, Small molecules, Nutraceuticals.
Research Topic 5: Materials for pharmaceutical, biomedical, and environmental applications
The research activity focuses on design, synthesis and characterization of functional materials for application in drug delivery, tissue engineering, and pollution remediation. Different architectures are employed such us polymeric and lipid micro- and nano-particles, hydrogels, vesicles, composites, hybrids, and dispersed systems. A particular attention is devoted to the development of scalable eco- and bio-compatible synthetic procedures and to the evaluation of physic-chemical properties.
Keywords: Functional polymers, Biomaterials, Drug delivery, Vesicular systems; Pollution remediation.
Area 05 – Scienze Biologiche
Research topic 6: Pharmacotechnology Documentation and Transfer research in the area of neuroscience, neuropharmacology and neurorehabilitation
The research unit generates documentation in the form of reviews, dossier and reports for natural and synthetic interventions or markers as background knowledge with which it builds protocols for clinical transfer in those medical areas endowed with major unmet diagnostic, therapeutic and rehabilitation needs (see, for instance, acute and chronic neurodegenerative diseases, dementia, chronic pain etc). The unit operates in the frame of signed collaboration agreements with national and international centers for basic and clinic excellence in neuroscience and neurorehabilitation.
Keywords: Clinical Pharmacology, Translational Research, Spirit, Prisma, Cochrane Risk of Bias Tool, Camarades, Trial Protocols.
Research topic 7: Preclinical and translational research aimed at the identification of novel therapies for stroke
Preclinical and translational research aimed at: 1) the identification and validation of novel pharmacological targets by exploiting the complex interaction between the central and peripheral immune responses to stroke and the development of ischemic neuronal damage, 2) identifying useful disease biomarkers and 3) developing novel stroke therapeutics of synthetic or natural origin.
The unit operates within the framework of the Ischemic Stroke Organization (ISO) aimed at gathering and integrating a number of clinical and research institutions working in the field of cerebrovascular diseases with the common aim to promote R&D of effective therapies for ischemic stroke.
Keywords: brain ischemia, immune system, neuroinflammation, neuroprotection, neurovascular unit.
Research topic 8: Preclinical and translational research aimed at the pharmacological characterization of natural products for the development of novel neurotherapeutics
Behavioural and neurochemical research concerned with 1) the pharmacological characterization of bioactive natural compounds and 2) the identification of specific pathways and molecular targets involved in their actions for the development of new therapeutic strategies.
Keywordsnatural products, molecular targets and new therapeutics.
Research topic 9: Preclinical and translational research aimed at the identification of novel therapies for the treatment of retina neurodegenerative diseases
Preclinical and translational research aimed at:
1) studying the molecular mechanisms underlying the neuronal death in acute and chronic neurodegenerative retina pathologies;
2) studying the role of autophagy in the retina under physiological and pathological conditions;
3) identifying and validating new pharmacological targets for the treatment of ocular pathologies causing low vision (i.e. glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, retinal dystrophies);
4) identifying and developing molecules of synthetic and natural origin for the modulation of autophagy.
Keywords: retina, neurodegeneration, neuroprotection, autophagy, glaucoma.
Research topic 10: Metabolic reprogramming of cancer cells with particular regard to the role played by mitochondria in the formation/propagation of Cancer Stem Cells (CSCs)
The project aims to identify how the alteration and metabolic reprogramming mainly in relation to mitochondrial bioenergetics, of the neoplastic cell can induce the emergence and propagation of stem cells and interfere with the phenomena of drug resistance. It is also proposed to identify new molecules capable of providing alternative therapeutic options for those patients who fail conventional therapy. Through these studies will be identified new therapeutic targets and tested new drugs able to counteract tumor progression in order to support the scientific and economic exploitation.
Keywords: Bioenergetics, Cancer progression, Cholesterol, Cancer stem cells (CSCs), Drug resistance, Mitochondrial carrier.
Research topic 11: Role of Cholesterol and its derivatives (27OH Cholesterol, steroid hormones) on the activation of Estrogen and Estrogen-Related Receptors (ERs, ERRs) driving metabolic reprogramming in tumor microenvironment
Tumor microenvironment and cancer cells engage a complex communication able to reshape each other’s metabolism linked to malignant progression and drug resistance. Aim of this research topic is to investigate how cholesterol and its derivatives cause a metabolic reprogramming affecting i) the biological functions of human adrenocortical, testicular and mammary tumors; ii) differentiation and activation of immune cells within the tumor microenvironment. This knowledge will be useful to identify new strategies for sensitizing cancer to immunotherapy.
Keywords: Cholesterol, Estrogen and Estrogen-Related Receptors, Metabolic reprogramming, Tumor microenvironment, Cancer immunotherapy.
Research topic 12: Role of estrogens, xenoestrogens, estrogen receptors and their cross-talk with endocannabinoid receptors in the control of spermatogenesis
We investigated these molecular mechanisms using immortalized cell lines isolated from rodent testes grown up in vitro or using in vivo rodent models. Aim of these research lines is to understand molecular mechanisms and to identify novel potential targets for drugs useful for the treatment of idiopathic male infertility.
Keywords: Estrogen receptors, Endocannabinoid receptors, Spermatogenesis.
Research topic 13: Mediterranean plants and their trasformation and application
The research activity focuses on the optimization and validation of analytical methodologies, to obtain crude extracts or fractions, pure isolated biomolecules and standardized phytocomplexes from officinal plant. These techniques must also respect parameters that allow to:
- to determinate better extract yields in terms of quality and quantity
- to belong to green chemistry for environmental sustainable processes
- to promote possible technical laboratory-industrial scale up with sustainable costs
Keywords: officinal plants, endemic flora, Mediterranean basin, active principles, extraction,characterization.
Research topic 14: food plants, supplements and functional foods
A specific line of research is based on the enhancement of waste products from the agri-food industry. The research aims at determining the pharmacological activity (in the case of isolation and characterization of single active ingredients) and nutraceutical / phytotherapeutic (in the case of use of phytocomplexes). Particular attention is paid to food supplements and functional foods intended for the control of metabolic disorders and associated pathologies
Keywords: food plants, foods supplements, functional foods, agri-food waste.
Research topic 15: Biomolecules, Nutritional Regimen and Drugs Retask to Treat Diabesity Epidemic
Because of the rapidly escalating prevalence of diabesity (coexistence of both diabetes, mostly type 2 and obesity), there is an urgent need for new preventive and therapeutic approaches to treat this disease. Therefore, diabesity is a modern epidemic, linked by various pathophysiological mechanisms, revolving around insulin resistance and hyperinsulinemia, diabesity has important diagnostic and therapeutic implications. In this view, we study insulin secretion mechanism and using transcriptomic approaches we identify molecular signature by comparisons (estimating similarity) of biomolecules, nutritional regimen, and drug re-task- disease. The transcriptomic approach is performed on biological material, such as cells or tissue, before and after treatment. The difference of gene expression is then compared with a disease-associated expression profile that has been similarly obtained through differential expression analysis of disease versus healthy conditions.   
Keywords: Diabesity, Insulin secretion, Transcriptomic, Drug retask.
Area 06 – Scienze mediche
Research topic 16: Dissecting novel mechanisms fine tuning breast cancer progression toward drug discovery and more comprehensive therapeutic approaches.
Estrogens, growth factors and G protein-coupled receptors activate an intricate signalling network leading to a gene signature involved in the acquisition of aggressive features and therapy resistance in endocrine-related tumors, including breast cancer. Therefore, the research activity aims to dissect novel mechanisms triggering this complex scenario toward the identification of therapeutics that would be critical in more comprehensive clinical settings.
Keywords: Estrogens, Growth Factors, G protein-coupled receptors, Drug discovery, Precision medicine, Breast cancer.
Research Topic 17: Effect of valproic acid in ER?-positive and negative breast cancer cells
Valproic acid (VPA), a member of HDAC inhibitors, used as antiepileptic drug, raised interest for its antitumor activity. Our recent data, demonstrated that in LNCaP prostate tumor cells, VPA reduces proliferation, and drives neuroendocrine phenotype. We are now studying the VPA role in breast cancer cells. Our data evidenced a decrease of proliferation and cell cycle arrest. The molecular mechanisms involved in apoptosis and inflammation in VPA-treated breast cancer cells will be investigated.
Keywords: Valproic acid, Breast cancer, Proliferation, Cell cycle, Apoptosis, Inflammation.
Research topic 18: Obesity and Breast Cancer: Unraveling the Role of Adipose Tissue in Breast Cancer Growth and Progression
Obesity has an intricate connection to both risk and clinical behaviour of breast cancers providing a unique adipose tissue microenvironment that, along with systemic modifications, promotes breast carcinogenesis. Unraveling the role of the adipokine leptin and the adipocyte-derived exosomes, as well-established mediators of intercellular communication, may open a new molecular window on the connection between obesity and breast cancer and identify novel biomarkers and/or therapeutic targets.
Keywords: Obesity, Adipose tissue, Breast cancer, Tumor microenvironment, Leptin, Exosomes.
Research topic 19: PPARgamma in the breast tumor microenvironment: novel therapeutic strategies for breast cancer treatment
The tumour microenvironment plays a key role in breast cancer progression. PPARγ, a nuclear receptor involved in adipocyte differentiation and glucose metabolism, also functions as a tumor suppressor. Activation of PPARγ by natural or synthetic ligands, including omega-3-PUFAs or TZDs, exerts inhibitory effects on breast cancer growth. Unraveling the role of activated PPARγ in tumor microenvironment could be paramount for a rational design of new therapy schemes for breast cancer patients.
Keywords: Nuclear receptors, Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma, Breast cancer, Tumor microenvironment thiazolidinediones (TZDs), Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs).
Research topic 20: Identification of diagnostic and prognostic gene-based biomarkers in neurodegenerative disorders and oncology
Both neurodegenerative disorders, including Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, and cancer are characterized by a multifactorial etiology, meaning that the onset, progression and therapeutic response depend on a complex interaction among multiple genes, environmental factors, epigenetics and individual lifestyle. In this context, the identification of specific gene-based biomarkers appears to be extremely helpful to identify at-risk individuals, perform early diagnosis, select the most suitable therapy and counteract the progression and mortality of such public health issues.
Keywords: Multifactorial diseases, Mutations, Susceptibility genes.
Research topic 21: FoxO3a as a Prognostic Marker and a Therapeutic Target in Breast Cancer
In the past two decades, Prof. Sisci has focused his research interest on the cross-talk existing between growth factors (GF) and steroid hormones in breast cancer. Particular emphasis has been lately given to the transcription factor Forkhead Box 3a (FoxO3a), a downstream effector of the PI3K/AKT pathway, and to its potential role as a novel marker of good prognosis in estrogen receptor α (ERα) breast tumors. FoxO3a deregulation in tamoxifen resistant phenotypes is being investigated as well.
Keywords: Breast cancer; FoxO3a; Tumor suppressor; Growth factors signaling; Estrogen receptor; Tamoxifen resistance.


Area 06 – Scienze Mediche                        PROGETTO DI ECCELLENZA (L. 232/2016)
Il progetto si basa sulle seguenti linee di ricerca e sviluppo:
1. Approfondire le conoscenze sui rapporti esistenti tra sfera nutrizionale a livello bio-molecolare ed alcune patologie cronico-degenerative, con particolare riferimento ai tumori. A tale scopo, saranno valutati i fenomeni di riprogrammazione del metabolismo energetico delle cellule neoplastiche e di vari componenti che costituiscono il microambiente tumorale. I risultati ottenuti consentiranno di individuare nuovi target molecolari per approcci terapeutici innovativi che saranno oggetto di studi preclinici e di oncologia sperimentale.
      2.  Reclutamento di professori/ricercatori.
    3. Potenziamento delle infrastrutture di ricerca per realizzare una piattaforma avanzata di bioimaging e sperimentazione preclinica.
     4. Promuovere attività di internazionalizzazione attraverso:
     a) l’istituzione del curriculum in lingua inglese del Corso di Laurea in Scienze della Nutrizione;
     b) il reclutamento di visiting professor;
     c) l’erogazione di borse di studio per studenti stranieri e per il dottorato di ricerca in “Medicina Traslazionale”.