Florence, one of the most beautiful cities in Italy and considered the birthplace of the Renaissance, held the XXVIth International Conference on Polyphenols (ICP) from 22 to 26 July 2012. It was organised under the auspices of the ‘Groupe Polyphénols’ (GP), an international association founded in France in 1972 with the aim of promoting research on plant polyphenols. The ICP takes place every 2 years, and since its first appearance in 1970 in Narbonne (France) the number of participants has increased significantly. During the past four decades, this meeting had taken place in many European countries, and even in Africa and North America. Nowadays, the ICP is recognised as a scientific meeting with a high-quality standard, where the most pre-eminent groups on polyphenol research and scientists from all over the world participate and present their recent results from scientific activities involving polyphenolic compounds.
During this conference in Florence, the ‘Groupe Polyphénols’ (GP) awarded the first GP Ragaï Ibrahim Prize to Dr Joana Oliveira from the University of Porto (Portugal). This prize was created thanks to a generous donation by Dr Ragaï Ibrahim, Emeritus Professor at the University of Concordia (Canada). It is awarded every two years, during the ICP, to an active graduate student or a young postdoctoral fellow who has co-authored, during his/her doctoral studies, a particularly relevant article in the broad field of polyphenol research. Another prize, the GP Scientific Prize, was also awarded during the ICP 2012 to Dr Richard Dixon from the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, Oklahoma (USA) to recognise his great contribution to the polyphenols research in biosynthesis and genetics.
Around 400 participants from 42 different countries attended the ICP 2012; over 300 presentations were delivered, including 256 posters, 40 selected oral communications and 13 invited lectures. Most presentations were based on high-quality original works covering a wide range of topics, and were organised in different sessions: chemistry and physical–chemistry properties of polyphenols, influence of polyphenols on food and beverage properties, chemical synthesis and biosynthesis, molecular biology, enzymology, gene expression and regulation of polyphenols, role of polyphenols in plants and ecosystems, health properties of polyphenols, bioavailability and metabolism, cosmetics and technological applications.
Many of the presentations addressed the biological properties of polyphenols and polyphenol-rich foods, and some original results highlighted the importance of those compounds in slowing down some degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and cardiovascular diseases. In addition, the interest on the potential impact of polyphenols on epigenetic mechanisms reducing cancer-cell survival was reinforced by some studies presented during the conference. Regarding biosynthesis, genetic and metabolic engineering, significant advances were noted in understanding the biosynthesis of polyphenols in plants and namely the regulation of the phenylpropanoid pathway and the genes involved. Moreover, progress in the knowledge of the ecological and physiological role of these compounds was also illustrated in several communications.
In this special issue, a relatively short number of selected and interesting papers, focusing mainly on the development of new methodologies for polyphenol analysis, are presented. These include the study of the polyphenol composition in fruits and plant preparations, the optimisation of a new tool to study the interaction of polyphenols with proteins, and the susceptibility of hydrolysable tannins to oxidation. In addition, a few more related papers on polyphenols, selected from the recent submissions to PCA, have also been added to this issue to make it more resourceful.
The next ICP (in 2014) will be held in Nagoya (Japan). Main topics will include chemistry, physicochemistry and materials science, biosynthesis, genetics and metabolic engineering, plants and ecosystems, lignocellulose biomass, food, nutrition and health, natural medicine and Kampo, and tannins and their functions. Therefore, do not miss the opportunity to join that meeting, and to share your expert knowledge on polyphenols with us!