Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Researchers identify an immune cell linked to inflammation and scarring in Graves' eye disease

Study explains why Graves' disease also targets the eye's orbit

A cell type that causes significant scarring in lung disease appears to have a similar effect in Graves' disease, University of Michigan Health System researchers have found. The cells, called fibrocytes, are present at a higher than normal frequency in patients with Graves' disease, according to a new study, the first to associate fibrocytes with this autoimmune disease.

The discovery is a major step forward in explaining how and why the orbit of the eye is subject to scarring and inflammation in Graves' disease.

The findings may also lead to new treatment strategies to target scarring or fibrosis, say authors Raymond Douglas, M.D., Ph.D., and Terry Smith, M.D., specialists in Graves' disease at the University of Michigan Kellogg Eye Center. The study appears in the January issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

Graves' disease is an autoimmune disorder which results in an overactive thyroid. Up to half of those affected by the disease will develop inflammation or fibrosis around their eyes, creating the bulging appearance associated with Graves' eye disease, also called thyroid-associated ophthalmopathy. Excessive scarring can cause such manifestations as double vision or even loss of vision.

"Today we have medications to reduce inflammation, but these drugs typically do not treat the fibrotic effects of thyroid eye disease," says Douglas, oculoplastics surgeon. "Our study is the first to implicate fibrocytes in the disease process, a finding that should open up new possibilities for treatment."

Fibrocytes are immune cells derived from bone marrow that circulate through the bloodstream. They can infiltrate tissue, like the lungs, kidney, and liver, generating excess connective tissue and areas of fibrosis, for example, following pulmonary or kidney injury.

To determine whether fibrocytes play a similar role in Graves' disease, these investigators and their colleagues examined tissue samples from 70 patients with the disease and compared them to 25 healthy subjects. The samples were gathered while Douglas and Smith were on the faculty of the University of California at Los Angeles.

They found that fibrocytes were present at substantially higher frequencies—as much as five times greater—in patients with Graves' disease. These levels were observed in both the bloodstream and in the orbital tissues of patients who had developed thyroid eye disease.

In earlier studies, Douglas and Smith identified the antigens that trigger the overactive immune response in Graves' disease. Now they report that fibrocytes express the same antigens: thyroid-stimulating hormone receptor (TSHR) and insulin-like growth factor-1 receptor (IGF-1R). In addition, the Kellogg researchers say, when these receptors are activated, they produce a large quantity of cytokines which could stimulate immune cells to the orbit, causing inflammation in thyroid eye disease.

"We now have a much clearer picture of the disease process, including the pathway by which fibrocytes reach the orbit," says Douglas. "Drugs currently under development for other fibrotic diseases are designed to disrupt this pathway and prevent fibrocytes from reaching their target." According to Douglas, "These therapies may be just as effective for our patients with thyroid eye disease."

As follow-up to the study, the Kellogg researchers plan to more fully identify the role of fibrocytes in the disease process and test whether several new agents, such as rituximab, can reduce these cells as they circulate through the bloodstream. The authors also recently demonstrated that rituximab was highly effective in treating patients with severe Graves' disease.

Reference: Increased Generation of Fibrocytes in Thyroid-Associated Ophthalmopathy, Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, doi:10.1210/jc.2009-1614

Funding support includes grants from the National Institutes of Health, Research to Prevent Blindness, and the Bell Charitable Foundation.

Learn more:

Kellogg Eye Center: Graves' Eye Disease

Related news: Researchers find new way to attack inflammation in Graves' eye disease (11/6/2009)

Betsy Nisbet | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Diagnoses: When Are Several Opinions Better Than One?
19.07.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung

nachricht High in calories and low in nutrients when adolescents share pictures of food online
07.04.2016 | University of Gothenburg

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

How nanoscience will improve our health and lives in the coming years

27.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

OU-led team discovers rare, newborn tri-star system using ALMA

27.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

'Neighbor maps' reveal the genome's 3-D shape

27.10.2016 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>