Indigo Mid-Term Review Meeting

The Cardiff Skyline

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All INDIGO participants travelled to Cardiff in April 2016 for the mid-term review (MTR) meeting which was also attended by Piotr Kasprzyk, a representative from the EU Research Executive Agency (REA). The MTR provides an opportunity for constructive dialogue between the network participants and the REA and is a valuable source of two-way feedback. Particular attention is paid to training activities and networking aspects for the fellows and the work programme is also evaluated.

The meeting took place at one of Cardiff Universities state-of-the-art committee rooms in Glamorgan House. Piotr summarised FP7/IAPP projects and was followed by the coordinator Marian Ludgate, who provided a progress overview. All INDIGO PIs and fellows participated and, when time allowed, there was lively discussion.

Some Images Captured by Anja Eckstein (Essen PI) during the MTR

Midtermreport cartoon

As can be seen in the photos, April showers were kept at bay – at least for the MTR!

The MTR was followed by a symposium ‘Deciphering the Role of the Microbiome in Autoimmune Thyroid and Ocular Disease’. The symposium was endorsed by the British Thyroid Association and provided a rare opportunity to bring together an international panel of speakers from the thyroid autoimmunity and ophthalmology communities in addition to experts on the microbiome to discuss new concepts on the origins of Graves’ disease and orbitopathy.

Each of the INDIGO fellows reported the progress of their specific aspect of the project and for some this was the first experience of speaking at an international meeting.

Main Building and Wallace Lecture Theatre, Cardiff University

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There were excellent presentations on the Graves’ disease (GD) target antigen, in vitro models of Graves’ Orbitopathy (GO) and an intriguing in vivo human model of GD/GO from Ricardo Nunez Miguel (Cardiff, UK), Maryse Bailly (London, UK) and Joanne Jones (Cambridge, UK); pictured left to right below.

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The following section discussed possible new therapies for GD/GO and covered all stages from experimental (Wisia Furmaniak, Cardiff UK) to trial ongoing (Shazli Draman, Cardiff, UK) and finally trail complete and outcome promising – at least for some types of GO patient (Mario Salvi, Milan, Italy).

Amongst other speakers were Professors Glenn Gibson (University of Reading, UK, pictured below left) and Colin Hill (Cork University, RoI) who explained the difference between prebiotics and probiotics and presented data on clinical trials which illustrate their potential in combatting the disease. Dr Astrid Westendorf (Essen, Germany) described T cell responses in the gut whilst Professor Lai Wei (Zhongshan, China pictured below right) and Dr Rachel Caspi (National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, USA) gave ground-breaking talks on the ocular surface microbiome and the role of gut micro-organisms in triggering inflammatory eye disease respectively.

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The event also included feedback from people with Graves’ disease and thyroid eye disease on the final afternoon. Lynne Kyffin (pictured above centre), a patient with Graves’ and eye diseases from Newcastle, gave a fascinating talk entitled: Are You What You Eat? Lynne described life events and illnesses she had experienced over many years and how, by researching her eating habits and food content, and subsequently adjusting her diet, felt far healthier than she had for the past three decades Lynne also commented ‘this event has really up-skilled me, I’d never done a power-point presentation before and now I can tick that box’

The symposium was made possible by the generous sponsorship of RSR Diagnostics for Autoimmunity http://www.rsrltd.com/about.html The Waterloo Foundation http://www.waterloofoundation.org.uk/ The European Thyroid Association http://www.eurothyroid.com/ Thermofisher Scientific https://www.thermofisher.com/uk/en/home.html and Apitope http://apitope.com/

The symposium was followed by a committee meeting of the European Group on Graves’ Orbitopathy http://www.eugogo.eu/

The INDIGO Project

  • INDIGO is an EU Marie Sklodowska-Curie funded Industry Academia Partnerships & Pathways (IAPP) of 1.2M euros.                                                     
  • It is coordinated by Cardiff University and includes academic partners in Essen and Milan plus SMEs in Italy and Wales.
  • It has collaborators across Europe, many of them members of EUGOGO.
  • INDIGOs main objective is to improve management of Graves’ orbitopathy (GO), a distressing eye condition which affects more than 3 million people in Europe.                                                                                                                                     IMG_0048 (2)

The photo, from left to right                                                                                                                                                                                     Back : Daryn Michael, Giulia Masetti, Simona Palermo, Hedda Kohling, Utta Berchner-Pfannschmidt, Danila Covelli, Iveta Garaiova, Lei Zhang.                                                                                                                                                                                         Front : John Williams, Sue Plummer, Marian Ludgate, Mario Salvi, Anja Eckstein.

Deciphering the Role of the Microbiome in Autoimmune Thyroid & Ocular Disease

Cardiff, UK April 21-22, 2016

INDIGO (Investigation of Novel biomarkers and Definition of the role of the microbiome in Graves Orbitopathy) and EUGOGO (EUropean Group of Graves’ Orbitopathy) are coming together during April 2016 in Cardiff for the first joint symposium of the 2 groups.

The meeting is a rare opportunity to bring together an international panel of speakers from the thyroid autoimmunity and ophthalmology communities in addition to experts on the microbiome to discuss new concepts on the origins of Graves’ disease and orbitopathy.

The meeting has been endorsed by the British Thyroid Association.

Click here to download the programme

How can interactions in your gut affect your thyroid and your eyes?


A healthy gut microbiota promotes a good balance between T cells in the gut keeping autoimmunity & inflammation in check.

Studies both in animal models and in humans with inflammatory and autoimmune diseases have identified a role for the gut microbiota in shaping the immune system. At any one time, the gut associated lymphatic tissue (GALT) contains about 50% of the cells of the immune system. The interaction between gut epithelium, antigen presenting cells such as dendritic cells and the ‘healthy’ gut microbiota produces cytokines and other metabolites which preserve the balance between regulatory T cells (Treg) and proinflammatory Th17 and Th1 cells.

In the case of dysbiosis when the microbiota is suboptimal, the cytokines produced favour generation of pro-inflammatory Th17 cells which may lead to loss of tolerance. In an individual with a particular genetic predisposition the result of dysbiosis could be Graves’ disease and in extreme cases, Graves’ orbitopathy.