First Guidelines for Standardizing Thyroid Studies Issued

Over the decades, researchers have published thousands of basic science studies on the thyroid gland and thyroid hormone, but the studies lack a standard design, making it difficult to compare and apply their results to the development of improved diagnostic and treatment approaches for thyroid disease. Charged with resolving that problem, the Miller School’s Antonio C. Bianco, M.D., Ph.D., led an international task force of experts in establishing the first guidelines for standardizing studies of thyroid tissue and thyroid hormone in animal and cell models.

Convened by the American Thyroid Association (ATA), the Task Force on Approaches and Strategies to Investigate Thyroid Hormone Economy published 70 specific recommendations designed to promote the standardization of study designs and increase the comparability and reproducibility of experimental findings in the ATA’s official, peer-reviewed, open-access journal, Thyroid. The report, “American Thyroid Association Guide to Investigating Thyroid Hormone Economy and Action in Rodent and Cell Models,” is available for free on the journal’s website.

“It is customary for physicians to accept clinical guidelines as the standard of care for diagnosis and treatment of a number of diseases, but the idea of a ‘Research Guide’ containing recommendations and setting standards on the best approaches and investigative strategies is new,” said Bianco, professor of medicine and chief of the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism. “We expect that other medical and scientific societies will see this as an opportunity to set standards for research in their respective areas of interest as well.”

A world authority on thyroid disease, Bianco was tapped by the ATA to lead and assemble 14 other specialists who reviewed the voluminous literature in basic thyroid research and defined consensus strategies and approaches for conducting thyroid studies in rodents and models to achieve more reproducible results. Though not exhaustive, their recommendations and accompanying commentaries, which examine topics ranging from “making cells hypothyroid” to “how to study the thyrotoxic bone,” touch on certain fundamental aspects of thyroid research relevant to all investigators in the field.

“Unlike clinical guidelines, the main goal of these recommendations and their accompanying commentaries is not to identify the single best practice per se, but instead to encourage investigators to choose standard approaches, for example avoiding random treatment doses or methods of thyroid hormone administration, which would only serve to limit comparison with previous studies,” the authors wrote.

Calling the report “an outstanding and comprehensive guide for translational and basic research scientists,” ATA President Bryan R. Haugen, M.D., head of the Division of Endocrinology, Metabolism & Diabetes at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, commended Bianco and the entire task force for an extremely useful and authoritative reference that fills “an important gap in our thyroid research field.”

Joining Bianco on the panel from the Miller School was Brian W. Kim, M.D., assistant professor of medicine and co-leader of the thyroid cancer site disease group at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center. Other contributors included Thyroid Editor-in-Chief Peter A. Hopp, M.D., and experts in the Netherlands, Spain, England, and Hungary.

“This is a unique compilation of detailed recommendations for performing experiments focusing on the pathophysiology of the thyroid using cell and animal models,” said Kopp, associate professor of medicine in the Division of Endocrinology, Metabolism, and Molecular Medicine, and Interim Director of the Center for Genetic Medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. “It will guide numerous researchers how to best conduct these experiments and will lead to more standardized approaches in many laboratories worldwide.”

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