cod. 1008465

Academic year 2021/22
1° year of course - Second semester
Renato BRUNI
Academic discipline
Biologia farmaceutica (BIO/15)
Scienze biomediche,psicologiche e della nutrizione
Type of training activity
42 hours
of face-to-face activities
6 credits
hub: PARMA
course unit

Integrated course unit module: Biology

Learning objectives

The course aims at teaching the basic functional aspects of living organisms, with an emphasis on the systems of production and accumulation of primary and secondary metabolites of food interest, both for nutritional and gustative purposes. From this standpoint, the course aims to provide the key to understand the ecophysiological rationale behind the role of biodiversity and agrobiodiversity.


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Course unit content

The course intends to put the student in the condition to interpret the role of plant biology in the context of gastronomy, combining the more strictly scientific part with the humanistic one and with all the facets revolving around the world of food. For this reason, each theme will be introduced by applied cases concerning interactions between humans and plants, aimed at anticipating the answers that biology provides in each and the limits with which we must apply them.
Some of the questions to be answered are the following:
• Does man manipulate plant biology, generating biodiversity? [The "invention" of corn and the transformation of watermelon]
• How does man intervene in and what links are there between biology and agri-food tradition? [Tea and rhubarb production]
• What connections are created between human history, geography, art and biology? [Claviceps purpurea poisoning]
• How do plants defend themselves and can we imitate them? [Secondary metabolites and integrated pest management strategies]
• Why is it said that biological systems do not provide "definitive solutions"? [The swiss-cheese model and its consequences in the evolution of plants and their food use]
• What makes a fruit crunchy? [Biology of ripening and texture of apples]
• What perfume a fruit and why does it always change? [the scent of tomato and vanilla]
• Does the climate change plant foods? [Climate change and wine, maple syrup production]
• Have ethnobotanical traditions influenced the characteristics of cultivated plants and are they used in today's creative cuisine? [Foraging, disappearance of bitterness, traditional vegetable dishes and their biological traits]
• Why do we use spices with meats? [Thyme, cinnamon, clove and nutmeg: scented defenses]
• Why are digestive liqueurs almost all plant based? [Aloe, gentian and strychnine]

- Key substances of living organisms: lipids, carbohydrates, proteins, DNA. Enzymes and their roles.

- Morphogenesis and plant secondary metabolism.
Cytology: the prokaryotic and eukaryotic cell structure, the cellular organization, the physiological and ecological role of its components. Differences between animal and plant cells. The plant cell as a laboratory for the production of compounds relevant for food use, both for nutritional and gustative purposes: biological (primary and secondary metabolism). Unique plant cell structures (vacuoles, plastids, wall) and their biological function and relapses on food uses. Histology: meristematic tissues, adult and definitive tissues. Structures devoted to the secretion and accumulation of plant secondary metabolites. Histological anatomy of roots, stems (in primary and secondary structure) and leaves, with examples functional to the obtention of foods. Organography of leaves, flowers, fruits, seeds and their role in the accumulation of primary and secondary metabolites. Asexual and gamic reproduction. Botanical relevance of plant tissues and plant organs in recognition of plants, in quality control and in the production and accumulation of the food-related ingredients. The variability of plant secondary metabolism in relation to physiological and ecological factors and the impact on food use of plant derivatives.

- Plant Systematics.
Fundamentals of plant systematics: species concepts, taxonomic groups, and methods in systematic nomenclature. Main families of food, aromatic and poisonous plants. The biological basis of biodiversity and agrobiodiversity.

- The role of plant primary and secondary metabolism in foods.
The rationale behind the presence of bioactive and aromatic molecules in plants. The biological basis beyond the most common strategies of food conservation and transformation. Ethnobotany of foods.

Full programme


Solomon, Martin, Berg – Elementi di Biologia VII Edizione, EdiSES

Solomon, Martin, Berg – Struttura e Processi Vitali delle Piante VII Edizione, EdiSES

Teaching methods

Teaching will be conducted by favoring active learning methods alternated with lectures dedicated to case studies, aimed at establishing a link between the everyday reality of the students (as consumers and future pharmacists) and the and conventional topics typical of plant biology. Supporting slides will be uploaded on a weekly basis on the Elly platform as well as other in-depth multimedia materials (both in Italian and English) aimed at providing the aforementioned case studies and further elements useful for developing a critical interpretation in the student on the use of medicinal and health food plants. Supporting materials will be made available through the Elly online platform. Slides and other supporting materials here uploaded are considered an integral part of the teaching material and therefore of the exam program.

Assessment methods and criteria

The exam includes a written test with a grading scale of 0-30 and praise, divided inf two parts: one with closed answers and one with open answers.

First part
The part with closed answers provides 8 multiple-answer questions to which a maximum of 2 points are assigned for each correct answer. A score of at least 8 points must be obtained in this section to pass the exam.

Second part
The part with open answers includes 4 questions to which maximum 4 points each are assigned according to the formal correctness of the answer and the logical and grammatical quality of the text. Tasks with answers left blank will not be corrected and will translate automatically in an insufficient score.
A score of at least 8 points must be obtained in this section to pass the exam. A score between 31 and 32 gives praise.

The test will take place during the scheduled exam sessions, will last 2 hours. Through the Elly platform, at the end of the lesson period, students will be given a facsimile of examination.

The student will have to demonstrate that he has understood, and be able to use in practical examples, the fundamental concepts of each topic.

Other information