Are we on the verge of a new era in thyroid gland knowledge and understanding its potential for treatment of diseases? Developments brought about by research are providing highly promising answers in this respect. To discuss all this, the IBSA Foundation for scientific research, in collaboration with Professor Domenico Salvatore, Professor of Endocrinology at Federico II University, Naples, Italy, organized the Forum titled “The thyroid…in the periphery!”. Held at Naples Federico II University, the Forum brought together experts in the field from all over the world, people whose research work and studies are opening up new perspectives for what may potentially be one of the most prominent breakthroughs of the near future. More than a hundred young students and researchers attended the world-class scientific event characterised by intense information exchanges and presentations of important novelties in a clear way, making everybody grasp how science is making progress for our future.
Over these past 20 years there has been a paradigm shift in our understanding of the thyroid gland. How was this important gland seen prior to that? As a ‘central system’ releasing hormones throughout the body steadily and consistently. Most recent research has shown this is only marginally true. It is true that the thyroid gland priority is ensuring steady levels of the thyroid hormone (triiodothyronine or T3) in the blood at any time and under any conditions, but what individual peripheral body organs do with it is entirely up to them.
This is the big discovery that fully reshapes the thyroid gland picture: body tissues can interpret and modify the thyroid hormone signals at peripheral level, we may say there is an ‘independent’ thyroid gland in each organ. The thyroid gland releases hormones into the bloodstream, and at peripheral level each organ independently modifies them, bringing about or stopping specific positive or negative effects.
The perspectives opened up by this paradigm shift are potentially game-changing. Today we know almost everything about the thyroid gland, we know the problems it may have. What we do not know is what happens to the body when the thyroid gland does not work or does function properly. This is why we focus on the ‘periphery’. The challenge is understanding what the thyroid hormone does exactly in individual organs to see what we can possibly do with this hormone at local level for treatment purposes. Think of what it would mean to have hyperthyroidism just in the liver to, say, tackle high cholesterol levels, while keeping hormone balance in the rest of the body. Or what it would mean to have hyperthyroidism just in the skin to be able to cure certain types of skin cancer.
To discuss these perspectives, leading international experts from Europe, the US and Japan, gathered in Naples, that for one day was the world’s endocrinology capital. The Forum was also the venue of the Abstract Competition at Forum Award ceremony. Providing yet another confirmation of its commitment to promoting science progress and advancement of scientific knowledge by supporting young investigators under 40 years of age engaged in fundamental and clinical research, the IBSA Foundation gave five of these awards, worth €1,000 each, to the authors of the best abstracts in the fields of biological sciences, medical science and biotechnologies.
- Warner Simonides, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
- Theo Visser, Erasmus University Medical Center, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
- Takashi Yoshimura, Nagoya University, Japan
- Monica Dentice, University of Naples Federico II, Italy
- Jens Mittag, University of Lübeck, Germany
- Graham R. Williams, Imperial College, London, UK
- Elizabeth McAninch, Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, U.S.A.
- Barbara Deneneix, Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris, France.
- Domenico Salvatore, University of Naples Federico II, Italy.