21 November 2011
By Elaine Murphy
Dr Patricia Kearney, Department of Epidemiology & Public Health, UCC is one of a group of researchers from European Universities who will participate in a new research project investigating current treatment practices for people who suffer from a mildly underactive thyroid gland.
The researchers met recently with medical experts from around Europe at the University of Glasgow for the inaugural meeting for the new study titled: “Thyroid Hormone Replacement for Subclinical Hypo-Thyroidism Trial” (TRUST). It is funded by a €6 Million grant from the EU’s FP7 programme.
TRUST researchers will follow 3,000 older subjects over a five year period in an attempt to better understand how to treat people who suffer from subclinical hypothyroidism. Half of the subjects will be treated with a hormone replacement drug, thyroxine, while the other half will be given a placebo; both groups will then be monitored to evaluate how they respond to the treatments.
The thyroid gland is located in the neck and controls how quickly the body uses energy and produces proteins; it also controls how sensitive the body is to various hormones. A mildly underactive thyroid, a condition also known as subclinical hypothyroidism (SCH) affects around one in six people over the age of 65 and has been linked to various health problems, such as heart attacks and strokes, in later life.
The project will mean academics from University College Cork will collaborate with experts in ageing, thyroid problems and vascular disease from around Europe, including researchers from the Leiden University Medical Centre and Leyden Academy on Vitality and Ageing, Netherlands and University of Berne, Switzerland. Dr Patricia Kearney, Department of Epidemiology & Public Health will lead the study for Ireland.
Speaking about the research project, Dr Kearney said: “I am delighted to formally announce the launch of the TRUST project. This international collaboration involves four countries – Scotland, the Netherlands, Ireland and Switzerland. It brings together experts in multiple disciplines, including geriatrics, primary care, endocrinology, cardiovascular disease, metabolic medicine, and biostatistics, as well as the patient support group, Thyroid Federation International.
“The project has the potential to significantly improve the health and well-being of older people with subclinical hypothyroidism, resolving uncertainties about how best to manage this common condition.”