Six Million Euros for Research into the Role of Thyroid Hormone in Age-related Diseases

2 December 2015• PRESSRELEASE

Het LUMC coördineert de komende vijf jaar een groot Europees Horizon 2020 project, THYRAGE. Hierin worden de effecten onderzocht van schildklierhormoon op een breed scala aan ouderdomsgerelateerde ziektes, waaronder artrose, dementie en osteoporose. De kennis die in dit innovatieve project wordt gegenereerd is nodig voor het ontwikkelen van nieuwe strategieën om deze ouderdomsgerelateerde ziektes te voorkomen of te behandelen.

The LUMC will coordinate a large European Horizon 2020 project called THYRAGE over the next five years. This project will investigate the effects of thyroid hormone on a wide range of age-related diseases, including osteoarthritis, dementia and osteoporosis. Knowledge generated in this innovative project is needed to develop new strategies to prevent and treat these diseases in the elderly.

‘We think that the amount of thyroid hormone in stem cells plays an important role in determining whether stem cells will divide - and form new stem cells - or whether they will differentiate into mature cells. The latter process is important in tissue repair but may also lead to loss of stem cells,’ says Diana van Heemst (Department of Internal Medicine, Gerontology and Geriatrics), coordinator of the project.

Excessive thyroid hormone

Tissues undergo continuous regeneration in our bodies, even in adults. Dr Van Heemst: ‘Tissue regeneration involves replacing old or damaged cells with new ones. The skin is a well-known example, but this process happens continuously in all tissues of our bodies, such as our bones, cartilage, muscles and even our nervous system. Stem cells play a crucial role in this process.’

‘We think that stem cells when exposed to excessive thyroid hormone differentiate into mature cells more readily. This may lead to a situation where there are insufficient stem cells available to repair and regenerate tissue when people have aged.’

Disease mechanisms

The investigators will test their hypotheses by performing experiments in cells, animals and humans. The LUMC is responsible for the research involving humans. ‘Will giving small amounts of thyroid hormone to healthy volunteers lead to changes in markers of tissue repair? This is one of the aspects of this project that we will investigate here at the LUMC’, says Dr Van Heemst. The other partners will perform the cellular and animal research.

‘We will look at cells in bones, cartilage, brain and muscles. These are the organs and tissues commonly involved in age-related diseases. Many elderly people develop locomotor problems and cognitive deficits, disorders that have a significant impact on their quality of life and their self-sufficiency.’ Current disease prevention and management strategies are often inadequate due to a lack of understanding of the underlying disease mechanisms.


The objective of THYRAGE (resetting the THYRoid axis for prevention of AGE-related diseases and co-morbidities) is to help fill this gap in our knowledge. Through this study, the Horizon 2020 project will build on the recently completed FP7 Project Switchbox, which focused on the role of thyroid hormone in healthy aging and longevity. The LUMC will receive 1.7 million for the research and coordination of the THYRAGE project.

Other partners involved in the project are The National Centre for Scientific Research (Paris), Imperial College (Londen), University of Naples, The Institute of Experimental Medicine (Budapest) and the Dutch company Pepscan Therapeutics BV (Lelystad).

Ageing is one of the 7 medical research profiles of the LUMC.

Also look at: Thyroid Status Different in People from Long-Living Families

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