American Thyroid Association Awards 2011 Research Grants to Mihaela Stefan, Ph.D. and Inna Astapova, Ph.D

The American Thyroid Association (ATA) has selected five recipients of its 2011 research grants, each of whom will receive up to $25,000 annually for two years. Two of the selected researchers will receive general ATA research grants, and three were awarded special ThyCa grants for research focused on thyroid cancer, which are funded by ThyCa: Thyroid Cancer Survivors Inc.

Recipients of the two general ATA research grants are Mihaela Stefan, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Mount Sinai School of Medicine (New York, NY), and Inna Astapova, Ph.D., Instructor in Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (Boston, MA).

Dr. Stefan, who received his doctoral degree in Genetics from University of Bucharest, Romania, in 2000, will study the “Role of interferon alpha in development of AITD: Epigenetic regulation of key genes.” In autoimmune thyroid diseases (AITD), in which a person’s own immune system attacks and damages the thyroid gland, individuals with certain genetic variations are predisposed to develop AITD when exposed to associated environmental factors. Dr. Stefan proposes to identify the epigenetic mechanisms that mediate these gene/environment interactions by studying changes in gene expression triggered by interferon that result in AITD. The research team will analyze genome-wide DNA methylation patterns in thyroid cells exposed to interferon in vitro, and will study the effect of interferon on the epigenome in transgenic mice that express human interferon. In the future it may be possible to target these changes in gene expression to prevent and treat AITD.  Bio

Dr. Astapova completed her Ph.D. in Molecular Biology in 2001 at the Russian Academy of Sciences. Her grant application is entitled, “Elucidating the in vivo mechanisms by which thyroid hormone regulates energy expenditure.” Dr. Astapova and colleagues recently produced a mouse model that expresses a mutant form of the NCoR protein, a protein believed to have an essential role in thyroid hormone signaling through the activation of nuclear thyroid hormone receptors. They will use this mouse line to study the mechanisms involved in the ability of thyroid hormone to regulate energy expenditure in mammals. The ability to understand these pathways could lead to novel approaches to treating metabolic diseases by manipulating thyroid hormone activity. Bio

The American Thyroid Association (ATA) is the leading worldwide organization dedicated to the advancement, understanding, prevention, diagnosis and treatment of thyroid disorders and thyroid cancer. ATA is an international individual membership organization with over 1,400 members from 43 countries around the world. Celebrating its 88th anniversary, ATA delivers its mission through several key endeavors: the publication of highly regarded monthly journals, THYROID, Clinical Thyroidology and Clinical Thyroidology for Patients; annual scientific meetings; biennial clinical and research symposia; research grant programs for young investigators, support of online professional, public and patient educational programs; and the development of guidelines for clinical management of thyroid disease. More information about ATA is found at