Institute of food sciences (ISA)

Research activities

The research activity of the Institute of Food Sciences, (ISA-CNR) ( started in 1994 and covered for many years the following research lines: 1. to study composition and nutritional qualities of food; 2. to evaluate the effects of nutrition and nutrients on human health; 3. to characterize and improve local food related to the Mediterranean diet; 4. to apply genomics, proteomics and bioinformatics to nutritional sciences. During 2011-2014 the research activities at CNR-ISA were organized in five CNR projects (named "commesse") and related to the study of food safety and quality, and health related to nutrition.
Since October 1st 2014 the new assigned CNR-ISA Director has arranged the above projects in three main science programs: A) Food; B) Health; and C) Omics. This new organization allows for a better rationalization and visibility of the CNR-ISA research activities.
A) Food
This program is aimed at: i) the study of food quality and biodiversity; ii) the study and promotion of local food products and the analysis of the food-farm supply chain; iii) the development of innovative methods, technologies and biotechnologies to improve quality and safety of food (food processing, shelf life, smart and sustainable active packaging); iv) the evaluation of the biological effects of food and microorganisms of food on health; v) the development of novel products and functional ingredients (e.g. fortified food and novel food).
Due to the multidisciplinary approach and the use of a wide range of different methodologies (chemistry, biochemistry, immunochemistry, immunology, microbiology, sensory analysis, cellular and molecular biology, micro-technology in vitro and in-vivo cell models) a high impact of the program in the national and international scenario is expected.
B) Health
The goal of this program is to study the relationship between nutrition, health and diseases. In this respect, the activities are unique within the CNR-DISBA. The main areas of research are the following:1. Epidemiology and population genetics (nutritional and genetic/epigenetic determinants of obesity and related diseases). 2. Nutrition and metabolism (metabolic effects of traditional Mediterranean diet). 3. Chemo-preventive mechanisms of phytochemicals. 4. Nutraceuticals and functional foods: pre-clinical and clinical approaches. 5. Immune-morphology.
The program involves research groups interested to chronic-degenerative diseases (cancer, cardiovascular); metabolic diseases (obesity, diabetes), food intolerance.
The results obtained by means of innovative and multidisciplinary approaches have contributed to improving our knowledge on the healthy properties of some food and dietary factors; a knowledge relevant for the well-being of human populations (young, adult, elderly).
C) Omics
This program cuts across the research interests of CNR-ISA groups and offers an advanced analytical platform for national and international collaborations with academic institutions, research institutes and industries.
The scientists participating to this program have consolidated expertise in omics sciences, including:
1) Analytical methodologies based on mass spectrometry for proteomics and metabolomics, for the structural characterization of proteins, peptides, antioxidants, lipids, volatile molecules and other classes of biomolecules.
2) Informatics, bioinformatics, computational biology, data analysis and management, molecular modelling and docking.
3) Development of advanced optical biochips for specific detection of traces of compounds of interest for food safety, homeland security and health.
Research activity is focused on topics strategically relevant in food and life science, such as the complex relationship between food composition and human health, the transformation and metabolic fate of food, the characterization of components with beneficial or adverse biological activities, food authenticity, homeland security & environmental issues.