BioOrganic Chemistry for Nanomedicine 

BioOrganic Chemistry Group Unimib

A multidisciplinary chemical sciences research team with focus on functionalization and formulation on bioactive smart materials for nanomedicine and 3D printed in vitro models. The group is interested in glycoscience based studies and on glycans applications in a range of fields that contribute to human health such as drug delivery, diagnostic and tissue regeneration.

Staff: Francesco Nicotra, Laura Russo
Non-permanent staff: Cataldo Pignatelli, Sofia Magli, Giulia Rossi, Francesca Cadamuro, Lorenzo Rossi

The main interests concern the understanding of the role of carbohydrates (Glycoscience) in pathological events and in aging, and the design and synthesis of glycidic structures that can inhibit or modulate such processes. Synthetic efforts are devoted to glycomimetics as potential drugs, and to the conjugation of responsive glycidic structures to nanoparticles and biomaterials.

We develop nanoparticles decorated with cell-responsive biomolecules for therapeutic and diagnostic use. The biomolecules are ligands specific for pharmacological activity, for biological barriers crossing and interactions, and for targeting. Particular attention is devoted to the decoration of nanoparticles with glycans as biorecognition molecules. Fluorescent probes, fluorinated molecules, contrast agents are used for diagnostic purposes.

Regenerative Medicine
Exploiting our expertise in the area of cell-responsive biomolecules, in particular glycans, we generate and test smart biomaterials able to modulate cell adhesion, proliferation and differentiation. We develop protocols to generate, decorate and characterize hydroxyapatite, gelatin, collagen, polycaprolactone, biohybrid glasses and composite materials, and study the possible applications.

ECM Mimetics
We develop ECM mimetics and bioinks for drug/nanoparticles screening and cell biology studies. The synthetic 3D matrices can be functionalized with peptides or carbohydrates in order to: a) guide the cell fate, b) improve cell viability, c) characterize glycan role in control of functional cell development.


Publications ( from 2015)


  • S. Sampaolesi, F. Nicotra, L. Russo. Glycans in nanomedicine: impact and perspectives. Future Medicinal Chemistry. 2019, 11, 43-60. [on-line publication]
  • I. Figuereido, A. Paiotta, R. Dal Magro, F. Tinelli, R. Corti, F. Re, V. Cassina, E. Caneva, F. Nicotra, and L. Russo. A New Approach for Glyco-Functionalization of Collagen-Based Biomaterials. Int J Mol Sci. 2019, 20(7): 1747. [on-line publication]
  • J. Andrieu, F. Re, L. Russo, F. Nicotra. Phage-displayed peptides targeting specific tissues and organs. Journal of Drug Targeting. 2019, Accepted. [on-line publication]


  • G. Marsico, L. Russo, F. Quondamatteo, A. Pandit. Glycosylation and Integrin Regulation in Cancer. Trends in Cancer. 2018, 4, 537-552. [on-line publication]
  • F. Tallia, L. Russo, S. Li, A. L. H. Orrin, X. Shi, S. Chen, J. A. M. Steele, S. Meille, J. Chevalier, P. D. Lee, M. M. Stevens, L. Cipolla, J. R. Jones. Bouncing and 3D printable
    hybrids with self-healing properties. Materials Horizon. 2018, 5, 849-860. [on-line publication]


  • L.Russo, A. Sgambato, R. Guizzardi, S. Vesentini, L. Cipolla, F. Nicotra. Glycofunctionlized Biomaterials in neuroregeneration. Chapter pp 179-198, in Drug and gene delivery to central
    nervous system. 2017, ISBN 978-3-319-57696-1.
  • Guzzi C, Colombo L, De Luigi A, Salmona M, Nicotra F, Airoldi C. Flavonoids and their glycosides as anti-amyloidogenic compounds: Aβ1-42 interaction studies to gain new
    insights on their potential for Alzheimer’s disease prevention and therapy. Chemistry a Asian J. 2017, 12, 67-75. DOI: 10.1002/asia.201601291R1
  • Papadia K, Markoutsa E, Mourtas S, Giannou AD, La Ferla B, Nicotra F, Salmona M, Klepetsanis P, Stathopoulos GT, Antimisiaris SG. Multifunctional LUV liposomes decorated for BBB and amyloid targeting. A. In vitro proof-of-concept. Eur J Pharm Sci. 2017 1101:140-148.
  • L.S. Connell, L. Gabrielli, O. Mahony, L. Russo, L. Cipolla, J. R. Jones. Functionalizing natural polymers with alkoxysilane coupling agents: reacting 3-glycidoxypropyl
    trimethoxysilane with poly(γ-glutamic acid) and gelatin, Polym. Chem., 2017; doi: 10.1039/C6PY01425A [on-line publication]


  • Sgambato A., Cipolla L., Russo L., Bioresponsive Hydrogels: Chemical Strategies and Perspectives in Tissue Engineering, Gels 2016, 2(4), 28; doi:10.3390/gels2040028 [on-line
  • Laura Russo, Laura Cipolla. Glycomics: New Challenge and Opportunities in Regenerative Medicine. Chemistry – A European Journal (2016) DOI: 10.1002/chem.201602156 [on-line publication]
  • Davide Bini, Roberta Marchetti, Laura Russo, Antonio Molinaro, Alba Silipo, Laura Cipolla. Multivalent ligand mimetics of LecA from P. aeruginosa: synthesis and NMR studies.
    Carbohydrates Research (2016) [on-line publication]
  • Mario Raspanti, Elena Caravà, Antonella Sgambato, Antonino Natalello, Laura Russo, Laura Cipolla.Collagrecan:Synthesis and Visualization of an Artificial Proteoglycan.
    International journal of biological macromolecules 86:65-70 (2016) [on-line publication]
  • Palorini R, Votta G, Pirola Y., De Vitto H., De Palma S., Airoldi C., Vasso M., Francesca Ricciardiello F., Lombardi P. P., Cirulli C., Rizzi R., Nicotra F., Hiller K., Gelfi C., Alberghina
    L., Chiaradonna F., Protein Kinase A Activation Promotes Cancer Cell Resistance to Glucose Starvation and Anoikis PLoS Genet, 2016, 12(3), e1005931. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1005931. [on-line publication]
  • Airoldi C.,* D’Orazio G., Richichi B., Guzzi C., Baldoneschi V., Colombo L., Salmona M., Nativi C., Nicotra F., La Ferla B.*, Structural modifications of cis-glycofused benzopyran compounds and their influence on the binding to amyloid-β peptide, Chem. Asian J., 2016, 11, 2, 299–309 DOI: 10.1002/asia.201501114 [on-line publication]


  • Antonella Sgambato, Laura Russo, Monica Montesi, Silvia Panseri, Maurilio Marcacci, Elena Caravà, Mario Raspanti, Laura Cipolla Dfferent Sialoside Epitopes on Collagen Film
    Surfaces Direct Mesenchymal Stem Cell Fate. (2015), ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces. DOI: 10.1021/acsami.5b08270 [on-line publication]
  • Laura Russo, Antonella Sgambato, Roberta Visone, Paola Occhetta, Matteo Moretti, Marco Rasponi, Francesco Nicotra, Laura Cipolla. Gelatin hydrogels via thiol-ene chemistry. (2015) Monatsh Chem. DOI 10.1007/s00706-015-1614-5 [on-line publication]
  • Giuseppe D’Orazio, Gelsomina Parisi, Claudia Policano, Rosella Mechelli, Giovanni Codacci Pisanelli, Michele Pitaro, Giovanni Ristori, Marco Salvetti, Francesco Nicotra, Barbara La Ferla* “Arsenical C-glucoside derivatives with promising antitumor activity”, Eur. J. Org. Chem, 2015, In press.