25 May 2022: Today is World Thyroid Day, a day to highlight the importance of the thyroid to overall health and wellbeing, and raise awareness of thyroid disorders. For 2022, the event has adopted the theme of “Thyroid and Communication”. It hopes to emphasise the importance of understanding thyroid diseases, and for doctors to better understand what might be done to improve outcomes for thyroid patients.
The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland found in the front of the neck. It produces two important hormones, thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3), which control how the body uses energy from the food we eat. If the thyroid produces too much or too little of these hormones, our body’s core functions can be negatively impacted, causing a range of issues including fatigue, sleep disturbances and high blood pressure.
Unfortunately, thyroid disorders can be difficult to diagnose due to many symptoms being similar to those of other medical conditions. To make it even more challenging, each person’s levels of thyroid hormones are unique to them, meaning that scientists need to understand thyroid function within normal ranges which are specific to each individual.
With over one million Australians living with an undiagnosed thyroid disorder, it is critically important that we improve our knowledge about the potential causes to improve diagnosis and treatment of thyroid conditions.
A recently published study in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, using data from the Raine Study, is helping researchers better understand the causes of variations in these thyroid hormones. Researchers looked at whether analysis of DNA methylation, a process that regulates the expression of certain genes, can provide insights into how the thyroid produces these hormones. They also wanted to understand if there is a common connection between production of the two thyroid hormones and the hormone responsible for their release, known as thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH).
Overall, the study demonstrated that there is a potential connection between gene expression and levels of T3 and TSH hormones. This gives researchers new directions for future research to help us better understand how the thyroid produces these hormones, which will also help in the development of treatments for thyroid disorders.
Should you wish to read this scientific paper in full, it can be found at: https://doi.org/10.1210/clinem/dgaa975
Find out more about World Thyroid Day at https://thyroidfoundation.org.au/World-Thyroid-Day.