Researchers find clues for treating Graves' disease

Researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have identified a compound that prevents overproduction of thyroid hormone. The finding brings scientists one step closer to improving treatment for Graves' disease.

The condition causes the thyroid gland to be overactive. Thyroid-stimulating antibodies bind to receptors, and activate them to keep the thyroid hormone coming. This causes the body problems in regulating energy, controlling other hormones and maintaining cells.

Researcher Susanne Neumann and her colleagues at the NIH's National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) have identified a chemical compound that binds to the receptors and keeps the stimulating antibodies from their work, potentially allowing the thyroid cells to revert to normal function.

The findings - which are published this month in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism - establish the effect of the receptor on human thyroid cells.

"Our goal is to develop an easily produced, orally administered, safe and effective drug with few to no side effects that can be used in place of some of the more invasive treatments of hyperthyroidism caused by Graves' disease," said Marvin Gershengorn, chief of the Laboratory of Endocrinology and Receptor Biology within NIDDK's intramural research program and the senior author on the paper.