Jan. 29, 2002 Torrance, Calif. (January 25, 2002) - Harbor-UCLA Research & Education Institute (REI) announced new findings indicating that antibodies specific to Graves’ disease bind to cell surface receptors. These are distinct from thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) receptors. This interaction leads to activation of key genes and T cell activation. It is believed that antibody/receptor complex initiates a cascade of events culminating in T cell activities and thyroid growth. This research, conducted by principal REI investigator Terry J. Smith, MD and collaborators at Boston University School of Medicine, Boston was published recently in The Journal of Immunology, 168:942-950,2002.
“ What is exciting about these findings is that now, for the first time, we can tie together pathogenic antibodies in Graves’ disease with T cell activation,” said Dr. Smith, Chief, Division of Molecular Medicine, Department of Medicine at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. “This holds promise for future research to learn how to turn off the expression, thereby eradicating the disease state. Graves’ disease is often associated with profound metabolic derangements and potentially site-threatening changes in the tissues around the eye,” he added.
Dr. Smith and his collaborator, William Cruikshank, PhD at Boston University School of Medicine have been studying the pathogenesis of inflammation associated with many conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis, Graves’ disease, and lupus. This research group has recently identified a number of potential pathways that may be utilized by lymphocyte derived cytokines in driving the tissue remodeling that occurs in Graves’ disease. Dr. Smith and his associates have found that fibroblasts from the orbital connective tissue (eye area) differ from fibroblasts found in other parts of the body. The orbital fibroblasts appear to be particularly susceptible to inflammatory reactions. Fibroblasts are highly specialized cells and react differently based on the tissue from which they derive. The discovery that fibroblasts are heterogeneous is having a significant impact on the way scientists study inflammatory response occurring in Graves’ disease and other autoimmune diseases including rheumatoid arthritis and Lupus.
Dr. Smith joined REI in 1999. He is a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Medicine, served his residency in medicine at the University of Illinois, Chicago and completed fellowships in biochemistry and molecular biophysics at University of California San Francisco School of Medicine and Columbia University. He has received numerous awards and honors recognizing his contributions to biomedical science, including being awarded Outstanding Young Physician, University of Missouri School of Medicine, and the Milly and Steve Liu Scholar in Molecular Medicine at Harbor-UCLA Research & Education Institute. Dr. Smith has published over 100 peer-reviewed papers and reviews on cell biology, endocrinology and immunology.
Harbor-UCLA Research & Education Institute, located on the campus of Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance, California, is a leading independent, not-for-profit biomedical research facility with an international reputation for scientific discovery, the training of physician-scientists and the provision of community service programs. It is an affiliate of both the UCLA School of Medicine and the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center and has an annual budget of $58 million. The Institute traces its roots back to 1952, when researchers and physicians joined forces with the UCLA School of Medicine on the campus of what was then known as Harbor General Hospital to conduct a handful of research studies. Today, more than 1,000 research projects and clinical trials are being conducted at REI, advancing scientific understanding in order to improve medical outcomes and promote innovation in such areas as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, infectious disease, vaccine evaluation and research, autoimmune disorders, inherited disorders, male contraception, various aspects of women’s health, and developmental disorders and other pediatric health problems.
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