Experimental models and use of herbal drugs

A.Y. 2021/2022
Overall hours
BIO/14 BIO/15
Learning objectives
The main objective of the course is to provide the main experimental models used to test the biological activity of natural products or their active principles, from in vitro models (cell or tissue cultures) to ex vivo studies and use of animal models. The choice of the animal model more suitable to test the pharmacological effect of natural compounds will be explained and discussed. Moreover, basic knowledge of biostatistics approaches will be provided to allow the statistical interpretation of results. Moreover, the course aims to provide information on the study of Phytotherapy, focusing on medicinal plants or botanicals with pharmacological activity, and their therapeutic and clinical use in humans. The course will be focused on therapeutic use of plants (efficacy) and adverse effects which may occur (safety).
Expected learning outcomes
At the end of the course, students are expected to know and understand the main methodologies that are currently used to test in vitro and in vivo the effects of drugs and botanicals. Some of them are experimental methods currently available in classical pharmacology. Students will be expected to know therapeutic effects of medicinal plants and their active components, paying particular attention to human studies. In addition to therapeutic use of botanicals, students will understand the aspects underlying efficacy of botanicals and potential adverse effects which may occur (safety).
Course syllabus and organization

Single session

Lesson period
More specific information on the delivery modes of training activities for academic year 2022/2022 will be provided over the coming months, based on the evolution of the public health situation.
Prerequisites for admission
The teaching is for students who have acquired knowledge on physiology, biochemistry, pathology and pharmacology. The propaedeuticalities are included in the Manifesto of studies.
Assessment methods and Criteria
The examination consists of an oral test which aims to verify the following aspects:
- Knowledge of the subject;
- Ability to reason;
- Communication skills.

The score, expressed in thirtieth, will be the weighted mean of the evaluation of the two courses.
Models for studying the biological activity of natural substances
Course syllabus
- Introductory notes to pharmacological methodologies;
- In vitro experimental models (cell cultures);
- In vivo experimental models: the choice of the experimental animal model in pharmacology;
- Methodologies applied to pharmacogenomics;
- Role of the expoerimental model for the study of the etiopathogenesis of disease and of the biological activity of drugs;
- The bioassay (Elisa; Western blot; Northern blot; EMSA; PCR, microarrays);
- Notes on statistical analysis;
- Notes on the use of bibliographic databases;
- Methodologies used in general pharmacology (methods for studying receptors, methods for studying the biotransformation of xenobiotics);
- Methods used for the study of antiplatelet drugs;
- Models for the study of tumors and drugs with anti-tumor activity;
- Models for the study of depression and pharmacological treatment;
- Models for the study of schizophrenia and pharmacological treatment;
- Models for the study of substances of abuse;
Teaching methods
Frontal Lessons
Teaching Resources
- Slides shown during teaching classes (available on Ariel website)
- Scientific literature provided by the teacher
- "Farmacologia generale e speciale per lauree sanitarie, PICCIN
Course syllabus
Phytotherapy: definition. Crude drug and phytocomplex definitions. interactions with other disciplines (Phytochemistry, plant biology, pharmacology, Pharmacognosy, etc.). Interactions among different components occurring in the phytocomplex. Factors which may influence the variability of phytocomplex. Basic concepts for extraction of active compounds by plant material. The criteria and requisites of medicinal plants: quality, safety, and efficacy. Immunostimulants: ginseng (Panax ginseng), active components and possible adverse effects. Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus), purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea radix and herba, Echinacea pallida radix), composition and uses. Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus), Schizandra (Schizandra chinensis), rose root (Rhodiola rosea). Plants acting in the urogenital tract infections: blueberry (Vaccinium myrtillus), lingonberry (Vaccinium vitis idaea). Cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon) against infections: active components and mode of action. Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) and arbutin. Crude drugs acting on gabaergic neurotransmission and medicinal plants which induce sleep: valerian (Valeriana officinalis), hops (Humulus lupulus), passion flower (Passiflora incarnata), lemon balm (Melissa officinalis). Serotonin, catecholamines and their neurotransmission. Dopamine, adrenaline, noradrenaline. Medicinal plants acting on serotonin neurotransmission: St. John's wort (Hypericum perforatum). Crude drugs and cognitive impairment: bacopa (Bacopa monnieri), turmeric (Curcuma longa), ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba). Caffeine: farmacokinetic, mode of action and natural sources. Plants containing xanthines and methylxanthines: coffee plant (Coffea arabica), tea plant (Camellia sinensis syn. Thea sinensis), guarana (Paullinia cupana), yerba mate (Ilex paraguariensis), Cola (Cola spp.), cocoa tree (Theobroma cacao). Phytotherapy of crude drugs to treat benign prostatic hyperplasia: saw palmetto (Serenoa repens), nettle (Urtica dioica), Pygeum africanum. Pumpkin seeds (Cucurbita spp.). Phytoestrogens used in the menopausal syndrome. Red clover (Trifolium pratense). Black Cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa). Chastetree (Vitex agnus castus), shepherd's purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris). Medicinal plant with actions in the gastrointestinal tract: eupeptic effect of gentiana (Gentiana lutea), European centaury (Centaurium erythraea), bitter orange (Citrus aurantium), wormwood (Artemisia absinthium), cinchona plants (Cinchona spp.), Iceland moss (Cetraria islandica). Gastric inflammations (gastritis and ulcer). Liquorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) effects on Helicobacter pylori growth and adhesion. Intestinal inflammations, ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease. Anthraquinones and laxative effects. Plants containing anthraquinones: Senna (Cassia angustifolia) Plant extracts used for intestinal inflammations: Aloe, Wormwood, Andrographis, Indian Frankincense (Boswellia serrata), active components and actions. Mild laxatives, gums and mucilage (Plantago ovata, Linum usitatissimum). Glucomannan (Amorphophallus konjak), manna ash (Fraxinus spp.). Anti-diarrhoea: tannins. Anthelmintic plants. Medicinal plants used for nausea: ginger (Gingiber officinale). Plants used against hemorrhoids: horse chestnut (Aesculus ippocastanum), butcher's-broom (Ruscus aculeatus), red vine (Vitis vinifera cv. Tenturiers).
Phyotherapy in cardiovascular diseases and control of dislipidemia: berberine, phytosterols, red yeast rice, garlic, fibers, plantago spp., policosanols. Plants for obesity control. Phytotherapy in the elderly. Visit to the Museum "Orto Botanico di Brera".
Teaching methods
During the course, besides the use of slides and ppt. for the conventional lessons, teacher will organize to visit Museo Orto Botanico di Brera, which is located in the centre of Milan. The museum contains a variety of medicinal and officinal plants. In this way, students will be able to see plants and investigate morphology and the part of plants used for medicinal purpose. Parts of plants studied in the second part of the course will be seen by students at lessons, when available in the Lab of Pharmacognosy.
Teaching Resources
Books which may be consulted by students:
Pharmacognosy and Phytotherapy: pharmacological basis and applications. G. Mazzanti, M. Dell'Agli, AA. Izzo. Piccin, 2020.
Capasso F., Grandolini G. Izzo A. Fitoterapia. Springer, Milano.
Accessing to the following Ariel site, it's possible to download all the material used for lessons, including all the slides used during the course:
Models for studying the biological activity of natural substances
BIO/14 - PHARMACOLOGY - University credits: 6
Lessons: 48 hours
Professor: Camera Marina
BIO/15 - PHARMACEUTICAL BIOLOGY - University credits: 5
Lessons: 40 hours
Professor: Dell'Agli Mario
Please contact via email to arrange a meeting
Department of Pharmacological and Biomolecular Sciences