About a year ago, in honor of thyroid awareness month, we published an article detailing the current state of affairs in the world of Graves’ disease research, and what might lie on the horizon. Here we update readers on the latest progress in Graves’ thyroid research for Thyroid Disease Awareness Month by reviewing new developments from the past year and reminding readers of the best resources for learning more.
There are multiple organizations that focus on Graves’ disease research. The Graves’ Disease and Thyroid Foundation is an excellent place to find all sorts of information and resources related to Graves’ disease, including educational materials, physician referrals and one-on-one counseling, among many other things. They are heavily invested in funding research that will allow those with Graves’ disease to live better lives. While there doesn’t seem to be a specific area covering research news on their site, bookmarking the site is a good idea for staying up-to-date on all things Graves’.
Another fantastic website that offers tons of information and options for patients and their families is that of the American Thyroid Association, where there are well-marked tabs on the home page leading directly to a) recent research news and grants awarded, and b) relevant clinical trials. Choosing “Graves’ disease” from the list of conditions brings you to a separate page with choices dedicated to Graves’ disease.
The National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD) also has quite a bit of information available to investigate research news and study opportunities, including a rather long list of additional organizations at the bottom of the Graves’ disease page. A similar website for the Kelly G. Ripken program, associated with Johns Hopkins, offers contact information for quite a few related associations, divided into patient and clinician sections; a group called Medifocus Health provides plentiful information designed for the same purpose.
Finally, the National Endocrine and Metabolic Disease Information Service (NEMDIS), a division of the NIH, is a great place to go for both information and additional resources, including research-related news and guidance.
In terms of those institutions actively conducting research, there are probably dozens, and a little targeted legwork online is sure to provide plenty of sources beyond those below. However, to get started, these academic centers (where most research is conducted, outside the NIH) and independent organizations offer research information and opportunities (or can point patients to further resources):
These are likely but a few of the many places offering more information or clinical trial participations, and they will certainly be able to direct those interested towards other helpful contacts.
The past year has seen quite a few new reports on recent study results and their implications for the Graves’ thyroid community. In September 2013, investigators successfully produced an animal model that accurately simulates the eye complications involved in Graves’ disease, which hopefully will allow for better therapies in the future. This emphasis is also seen on the University of Michigan Kellogg Eye Center website, which highlights research directions, as well as presenting two recent papers authored by faculty, also concerning Graves’ thyroid eye-related difficulties.
And a group called RNIB out of the UK has posted similar information regarding eye complications, recent developments in that area, and possibilities for the future. Yet another site, though not offering study results, offers patients a chance to apply for participation in current clinical trials at a number of different centers nationwide.
While NIH’s Genetics Home Reference page for Graves’ disease doesn’t appear to have any news of new gene discoveries or similar developments right now, it offers good information on the genetics behind some cases of Graves’, and additional places to contact for more details. Thus, this would seem a good place to check for new genetic discoveries and get assistance finding out about them elsewhere.
Medical news sites are also great sources of the latest research and development initiatives and successes. A January 2014 update by news-medical.net discusses plans for a Graves’ disease vaccine in Europe, as well as mentioning the animal model concerning eye problems, noted above.
MedPage Today reports that a literature review last year revealed that total removal of the thyroid (total thyroidectomy) might be best for those with Graves’, as opposed to partial thyroidectomy. This procedure seems to prevent recurrent hyperthyroidism best, but also carries certain risks of which the patient should be aware.
In addition, a recent study out of Japan yielded positive isolation and identification of a specific antibody called IgG4 subtype, which investigators have noticed is often elevated in certain patients. This may be evidence of a newly recognized subset of Graves’ hyperthyroidism driven by this antibody increase, which has not been demonstrated up to this point, and which may offer help in future diagnosis and treatment.
And an article published in July of 2013 describes how a meta-analysis has suggested that relapse may be more common in patients receiving anti-thyroid medications, as opposed to other treatment options.
A few case reports have also been detailed online, discussing one or a few instances of adverse effects of Graves’ disease treatments. Two cases were recently reported noting severe liver toxicity following routine therapy with radioactive iodine, a common treatment choice for those with Graves’. These findings suggest that new precautions may be necessary for some patients undergoing these treatments. Another patient was found to develop hypocalcemia (low blood calcium) and severe vitamin D deficiency after methimazole administration. While considerably less significant than more formal studies, case reports like these still offer insights into potential complications and/or benefits from various treatments.
Unfortunately, unlike Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, which has received some attention in terms of a possible connection to an imbalance of gut flora, this doesn’t appear to be the case with Graves’ disease. A literature search revealed no past or present studies investigating this possibility.
There are quite a few studies and articles involving the intestinal microbiome (bacterial community in the gut) and general autoimmune disease, as well as for other specific disorders (some of which we have covered previously), but none that deal specifically with Graves’ disease.
About the Author
Dr. Rothbard is a professional medical writer and consultant based in New York City, specializing in medical education articles targeted at a variety of audiences, from children through clinicians. After leaving medicine, he worked as a biology and medical science educator for several years, before deciding to pursue writing full-time. He may be reached at [email protected].
This blog post was originally published by AutoimmuneMom.com, written by Dr. Rothbard, and first published on Jan 29, 2014.