Published: 31.10.11

Health Sciences and Technologies

People in today’s industrialised society live healthier, longer lives than previous generations. Age-related illnesses and ailments are also increasing as a result. Engineers and life scientists are researching constantly improving diagnostic methods to enable better detection and treatment of these problems and are developing a wide variety of treatments that combine modern technologies with biological-medical know-how.

For this reason, ETH Zurich has launched the strategic research focus “Medical Technology and Health”. The new “Health Sciences and Technologies” department (D-HEST) will come into operation on 1 January, 2012 as a visible signal to the outside world. The first students will complete the new study programme beginning in autumn 2011. This dossier summarises the wide variety of activities arising from research and teaching in this area.

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An ETH Zurich research team-in collaboration with Roche Pharmaceuticals- has discovered a hitherto unknown mechanism by which the insulin producing beta cells are negatively affected. This raises new hopes for pharmacologically stimulating these cells to divide and thus combating diabetes. Peter Rüegg, 06.09.11
Researchers led by ETH professor Yaakov Benenson and MIT professor Ron Weiss have successfully incorporated a diagnostic biological “computer” network in human cells. This network recognizes certain cancer cells using logic combinations of five cancer-specific molecular factors, triggering cancer cells destruction. Peter Rüegg, 31.08.11
Professor Jean-Christophe Leroux and his colleagues have developed a method with which they can observe gluten-splitting enzymes in a living organism. This is an important step towards developing effective digestive proteins that can be used against coeliac disease. Peter Rüegg, 15.08.11
Researchers from ETH Zurich have fitted human cells with a synthetic signalling cascade that can be used to switch on and regulate genes via blue light. This “gene light switch” makes interesting therapies possible, which could be used to treat type 2 diabetes, for instance. Peter Rüegg, 22.06.11
Silver nanoparticles have superior optical properties that make them attractive for therapy and diagnostics. One hurdle up to now has been their toxicity. Researchers from ETH Zurich, however, have now found a solution by making and in-situ silica coated silver nanoparticles. Simone Ulmer, 11.05.11
Targeted photodynamic therapy can make certain forms of cancer disappear completely. This has been demonstrated by British and Swiss researchers in a paper recently published in the British Journal of Cancer. Peter Rüegg, 12.04.11
Infections on dental implants are dreaded. There is a great risk that the jawbone will recede as a result. Researchers have now developed a method that could effectively eliminate the bacteria causing the inflammation. Simone Ulmer, 07.03.11
Using a mass spectrometric method, ETH Zurich researchers are able to measure metabolites of a common epilepsy medication directly in exhaled breath. This simplifies testing of patients and represents a step towards personalised medicine. Peter Rueegg, 04.03.11
Identifying biomarkers is an important step towards personalised cancer treatment. Researchers at ETH Zurich, University Hospital Zurich and the Cantonal Hospital of St. Gallen present a new strategy for determining such biomarkers. Anna Ehlert, 17.02.11
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