Foto del docente

Laura Mercolini

Associate Professor

Department of Pharmacy and Biotechnology

Academic discipline: CHIM/08 Pharmaceutical Chemistry


Keywords: Drugs of abuse Anti-doping analysis Therapeutic drug monitoring (TDM) Analysis of natural compounds Liquid chromatography (HPLC) Capillary electrophoresis (CE) Mass spectrometry Biological fluids Microsampling Sample pretreatment Miniaturisation Analytical method development

1. Development of innovative strategies for the analysis of drugs of abuse and doping compounds. Development of analytical methods for the identification and quantitation of classical drugs of abuse, new psychoactive substances (NPS) and doping agents in biological and non biological samples. The instrumental techniques used for these purposes are the high-performance liquid chromatography coupled to different types of detection (HPLC-MS, HPLC-UV, HPLC-DAD, HPLC-F, HPLC-ED) and the capillary electrophoresis (CE-DAD, CE-LIF).

2. Therapeutic drug monitoring (TDM) of central nervous system drugs: antipsychotics, antidepressants, antiepileptic and sedative-hypnotics. Identification of chemical-clinical correlations for the optimisation and personalisation of the psychiatric therapy.

3. Development and validation of innovative miniaturised procedures for biological and non biological sampling and sample pretreatment.

4. Analysis of bioactive compounds of natural origin in plant matrices and derived products, for nutraceutical purposes.



In more details:

1. The research on drugs of abuse are aimed at the development of analytical methods for the identification and quantification of classical drugs (cannabinoids, cocaine, opiates-opioids, amphetamines) and new synthetic drugs recently put on the black market (smart drugs, designer drugs, club drugs) and doping agents. Neurotransmitters and their metabolites are also considered to search for specific risk factors and correlations in addiction cases. Studies on drugs of abuse are carried out in collaboration with the Department of Drug Policy (DPA), some italian SerD and prisons and the Antidoping Committee.

 2. Another important line of research deals with the therapeutic drug monitoring (TDM) of drugs affecting the central nervous system (antipsychotics, antidepressants, antiepileptic, sedative-hypnotics). The TDM is designed to detect correlations between the chemical-clinical dosages administered to patients and the levels found in biological fluids, including the concentrations found and therapeutic effects, side effects and toxicity. The ultimate goal is to personalise the therapy and make it more effective, thus improving the quality of life for patients and reducing the costs of hospital treatment. These studies are carried out in collaboration with some italian and foreign  university psychiatric clinics and italian mental health centers.

The analytical techniques used for these two lines of research are the HPLC with UV detection, DAD, spectrofluorimetric, or capillary electrophoresis with DAD detector or LIF detector. Methods based on mass spectrometry (triple quadrupole), also coupled to liquid chromatography, are also designed.

 3. Great attention is paid to the development and validation of miniaturised pretreatment procedures for biological samples, for example by microsolid phase extraction, microextraction by sorbent packed (MEPS), liquid-liquid microextraction, dried matrix spots (DMS) and volumetric absorptive microsampling (VAMS).

 4. Regarding the analysis of active ingredients of plant origin,  natural extracts, foods, beverages and commercial products are studied and highly selective methods for the separation and quantification of the main compounds and their secondary metabolites are carried out. These studies are designed to test the nutraceutical power of people diet.