59157 - Plants, Environment and Society

Course Unit Page


This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

Good health and well-being Responsible consumption and production Climate Action

Academic Year 2019/2020

Learning outcomes

The student will acquire knowledge about the relationship between plants and environment and the consequent implications on the society. Different aspects of the modern or alternative use of plants will be taken into consideration and the student will be able to associate plant structural and functional characteristics with their influence upon environmental and economical sustainability and human health. By means of laboratory experiences, the student will realise how science (in particular plant biotechnology) is the basis of technology and knowledge progress for the use of plant in modern society. Specific student interests will be valorised and personal detailed study will be encouraged.

Course contents

The corse will deal with different aspects of the use of plants in the modern society


  • Cell cultures of plant tissues and organs. Applications to the production and regeneration of new plants. Applications to the production of nutraceutical and pharmaceutical compounds. The active metabolites of plant origin and their use for human health. (4h)
  • Transgenic plants. How to produce them and what are they useful for. Italian, European and world regulations. How does society perceives them? What is their real impact on the environment and human health? The study cases of golden rice and rainbow papaya. (4h)
  • Plants and food. What to eat and how to eat it? Plants and human health (positive and negative aspects). Allergies and food and environmental intolerances: what is the role of plants? Alimurgic plants: common plants, ancient remedies and traditions. (8h)
  • Phytoremediation: the use of plants in reducing environmental pollution. (2h)
  • The plants as indicators of pollution. (2h)
  • Urban plants as bioindicators of climate change (2h)
  • The plants as a source of energy. The use of plant organisms (algae and higher plants) for the production of biofuels (e.g. bioethanol and biodiesel). Biorefineries: reuse of industrial and agricultural plant wastes for the production of energy and new molecules useful in daily life. (2h)


  • Plant cell cultures: culture media preparation, sterilisation and cutting of the explants, establishment of in vitro cultures in sterile conditions. (4h)
  • Bioactive molecules characterisation in food via spectrophotometric assays: total polyphenols, antioxidant activity and reducing sugars quantifications. (3h)
  • Evaluation of plant phytoremediation activity and heavy metal adsorption. (3h)
  • Evaluation of cell culture growth and discussion about obtained results. (2h)

PLEASE NOTE To be able to attend the laboratory, students must be in possession of the certification for passing the Modules 1 and 2 for laboratory safety


Use of popular and scientific articles and book chapters on various topics provided by the teacher and also proposed by the students.


Teaching methods

Lectures' files will be made available via the Iol Platform. Laboratory protocols will be supplied and students will perform in person the experiments.

Assessment methods

Power point presentation (20 minutes) regarding on one topic chosen among those covered in class (using literature collected by the student). The presentation will be publicly exposed to the teacher and to the classmates. Laboratory acquired concepts will be assessed by multiple answer test that result will take place before power point presentation. Therefore, the attendance at laboratory is highly recommended.

Teaching tools

Power point lectures. Seminars given by professors specifically expert in the different subjects of the programme

Office hours

See the website of Annalisa Tassoni