The “Centre for Neuroendocrinology: Brain/Body Dialogues” was established in 2015 in response to a call from the Vice Chancellor of the University of Pretoria for cutting edge new research initiatives. Neuroendocrinology is the science of how external environmental and internal body inputs regulate hormone production to maintain physiological homeostasis to ensure health in humans and animals.
The detection and integration of these diverse exogenous environmental inputs (e.g. light, temperature, stress, visual, nutrient, toxin, odorant, pheromone and pathogen), and endogenous signals (e.g. hormones, growth factors, inflammatory and stress mediators, neurotransmitters, metabolites, ions, water and electrolytes and lipids) in the vertebrate brain is crucial for homeostasis and survival. The hypothalamic region at the base of the brain integrates these diverse inputs via the secretion of neuropeptides which are released into a portal system to target the anterior pituitary which regulates reproduction, adrenal function, thyroid function, appetite, metabolism and growth. Hypothalamic neuropeptides are also secreted into the general circulation to target end organs such as the kidney (water and electrolyte regulation), uterus (parturition) and breast (lactation). Neuroendocrinology has therefore yielded important insights into normal and deranged homeostasis in vertebrates and produced a range of billion dollar therapeutics which are widely used in man, companion animals and livestock. Indeed, it is fair to say that there are no area of biomedical physiology and pathophysiology that are not impacted by Neuroendocrinology, and some of these, such as obesity, metabolic syndrome and diabetes are now global pandemics with vast implications for ill health.
Although the Centre conducts research in several areas of Neuroendocrinology including stress, growth and thermoregulation, our primary focus in on reproductive Neuroendocrinology and addresses infertility, hormone-dependent cancers, and women and child reproductive health. Our research covers the full spectrum of atomic level hormone interactions with receptors, cell and molecular biology, drug development and physiology through to translation into clinical studies. To accomplish this, we have established state-of –the –art facilities and assembled a group of talented and enthusiastic researchers and students and an extensive network of collaborators.
Our mantra is the four I’s: