Endocrinology refers to the study of hormones, their receptors and the intracellular signalling pathways they invoke, and the diseases and conditions associated with them. In the practice of medicine, endocrinology is often paired with the study of diabetes and metabolism. Metabolism refers to the whole range of biochemical processes that occur within a living organism. Another common pairing of endocrinology is with reproductive medicine and fertility.
The undergraduate medical studies of the Universities of Geneva and Lausanne both cover the field of endocrinology. Geneva University offers a Master of Advanced Studies in advanced clinical medicine with a specific endocrinology and diabetology focus, with training in the Geneva University Hospitals. The Swiss Society of Endocrinology and Diabetology provides vocational training in endocrinology and diabetology for qualified physicians.
There are several research teams carrying out fundamental research in the combined fields of endocrinology, metabolism and fertility. Lausanne University’s Center for Integrative Genomics is looking at the spatial and temporal control of gene expression, of central importance to many fundamental biological activities such as cell proliferation, differentiation, survival, and responses to environmental or intracellular stimuli. Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors (PPARs) are members of the nuclear receptor family to which steroid/thyroid/retinoic acid receptors also belong.
The concerted evolution of PPARs and of the regulatory region of the genes they control has led to the formation of networks of structurally and functionally unrelated genes, which are associated in the context of vital processes such as metabolic pathways, response to food deprivation and wound healing. In addition, PPAR dysfunction has been implicated in the manifestation of many diseases, ranging from obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer. Research activities concentrate on the unveiling of new functions of PPARs in coordinating the roles of several organs in energy homeostasis and in tissue repair mechanisms, including cell survival, proliferation and migration.
The National Research Centre Frontiers in Genetics, hosted at the University of Geneva, aims to understand the function and regulation of genes during cell and organism development. These fundamental problems are tackled at four different levels, namely at the level of genes, of chromosomes, of the whole cell and of the entire organism.
The combined efforts of researchers have led to the creation of five platforms that provide services to the scientific community and the private sector. The genomics and bioimaging platforms are located in Geneva, whereas Lausanne hosts the mouse Metabolic Evaluation Facility (MEF) and the lentiviral platform. The site-specific genome integration system for drosophila (FlyC31), another molecular tool of genetic engineering, was developed in Zurich. In all, five institutions are involved in Frontiers in Genetics, including EPFL, Lausanne and Geneva Universities.
Both the Lausanne (CHUV) and the Geneva (HUG) Hospitals have leading clinicians in the endocrinology, metabolism and fertility sectors. The CHUV’s Endocrinology, diabetology and metabolism service takes care of patients whose glands present a serious dysfunction. CHUV has an ISO certified endocrinology lab, as well as an assisted reproductive technology laboratory and unit. Reproductive medicine and biology represents a new domain whose growth is due to extremely active research over the past 25 years. Lausanne University has basic and applied research spanning diabetology, neuroendocrine pathways controlling metabolism and reproduction, obesity and metabolism.
It is in the field of infertility that Merck Serono developed its worldwide leadership, with the first-ever recombinant medicine to treat fertility problems, Gonal-F. Merck Serono is the only company to offer recombinant versions of the three hormones used in the treatment of infertility: Human follicle stimulating hormone (hFSH), Human luteinizing hormone (hLH), and Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG). Merck Serono was also a pioneer in making recombinant human growth hormone available for the treatment of growth hormone deficiency in children and adults. The company is expanding its product portfolio into other areas of endocrinology.
Ferring, also based in the BioAlps cluster, is a specialty, research-driven biopharmaceutical company that identifies, develops, manufactures and markets innovative products in the fields of urology, gynecology and obstetrics, gastroenterology and endocrinology. From its origins as a Scandinavian company, Ferring has developed into a global business with operating units in many pharmaceutical markets around the world.
BELLUS Health is a global health company focused on the development and commercialization of products to provide innovative health solutions to address critical unmet needs. The company is developing investigational product candidates for the treatment of Amyloid A amyloidosis, Type II diabetes and certain features of metabolic syndrome. BELLUS Health’s strategic acquisition of Innodia Inc. provides access to additional expertise and rights in diabetes and obesity, helping to accelerate the company’s own projects in diabetes and pipeline expansion through Innodia's identified candidate leads.
Almost a century ago, Ethicon scientists and researchers thought about healing in a new way - and in doing so, pioneered sutures to enhance the work of surgeons and the lives of patients. Ethicon, a Johnson & Johnson company, has continuously introduced innovations in wound closure; general surgery; biosurgery; women’s health, and aesthetic medicine. Allergan, Inc. acquired Swiss medical technology developer EndoArt, a leader in the field of telemetrically-controlled (or remote-controlled) implants used in the treatment of morbid obesity and other conditions.
Several pioneering start-ups are active in fields related to endocrinology and metabolism. Exichol is researching nutrigenomics, the study of molecular relationships between nutrition and the response of genes, with the aim of extrapolating how such subtle changes can affect human health. Notably, Exichol investigates the interaction between micronutrient combinations and the genome. Whilst it is known that nutrients play an important role in health and disease, their regulatory action on gene expression is still poorly understood. In light of the rapid advances in molecular genetics, there are novel opportunities for research in combinatorial nutrition, and hence for the development of innovative products with specific genome signatures.
Bioresearch & Partners is a research and development company specialized in a novel therapeutic nutrition approach that is uniquely based on microdosing and sequential assembly of key micronutrients. The company’s products nutritional products are safe and show clear therapeutic benefits in several diseases including hyperlipidemia, osteoporosis, immunity, and heavy metals-induced toxicity.