Why is the thyroid so prone to autoimmune disease?
The thyroid gland plays a major role in the human body; it produces the hormones necessary for appropriate energy levels and an active life. These hormones have a critical impact on early brain development and somatic growth. At the same time, the thyroid is highly vulnerable to autoimmune thyroid diseases (AITDs). They arise due to the complex interplay of genetic, environmental, and endogenous factors, and the specific combination is required to initiate thyroid autoimmunity. When the thyroid cell becomes the target of autoimmunity, it interacts with the immune system and appears to affect disease progression. It can produce different growth factors, adhesion molecules, and a large array of cytokines. Preventable environmental factors, including high iodine intake, selenium deficiency, and pollutants such as tobacco smoke, as well as infectious diseases and certain drugs, have been implicated in the development of AITDs in genetically predisposed individuals. The susceptibility of the thyroid to AITDs may come from the complexity of hormonal synthesis, peculiar oligoelement requirements, and specific capabilities of the thyroid cell's defense system. An improved understanding of this interplay could yield novel treatment pathways, some of which might be as simple as identifying the need to avoid smoking or to control the intake of some nutrients.
Saranac L, Zivanovic S, Bjelakovic B, Stamenkovic H, Novak M, Kamenov B. Why is the thyroid so prone to autoimmune disease? Horm Res Paediatr. 2011 January Pediatric Clinic, University Clinical Center, Nis, Serbia.