A new way to generate thyroid cells known as thyrocytes using genetically modified embryonic stem cells was recently discovered by a research team from the Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM).
The findings, which appear in the journal Stem Cell Reports, are the first step to developing a similar protocol using human stem cells that will allow the modeling of thyroid disease to better understand its causes and the development of therapies.
Thyroid disorders affect approximately 10 percent of the U.S. population and include Grave's disease or Hashimoto's disease, which can result in hyper or hypothyroidism, thyroid nodules, goiter or cancer.
"This method resulted in high yield of our target cell type, thyroid cells, but it may be applicable for the derivation of other clinically relevant cell types such as lung cells, insulin-producing cells, liver cells, etc.," explained Laertis Ikonomou, PhD, assistant professor of medicine at BUSM and member of the Center for Regenerative Medicine (CReM) at Boston Medical Center and BUSM.
The researchers hope this study will lead to the development of therapeutics or stem cell/genetic engineering technologies that will improve the quality of life for the many people afflicted with thyroid and other disorders.