An informative case of Graves' disease with implications for schizophrenia.

The aetiology of schizophrenia and the other psychoses is not yet established. The Knight model, based on genetic and other evidence, proposes that schizophrenia is an autoimmune disease, caused by the development of forbidden clones of B lymphocytes that secrete autoantibodies that accidentally stimulate cell surface receptors on certain neurons, affecting the limbic system of the brain. An unusual defect in a Maori man with Graves' disease rendered him unresponsive to the usually effective antithyroid drugs, prompting his being treated with prednisone, a non-specific immunosuppressant agent. This was highly successful, reducing the blood level of the causative thyroid-stimulating autoantibodies with reduction of thyroid hormone levels and thyroid gland size. Unfortunately, high dosage prednisone can be used for only a month, because of steroid toxicity. A research pathway to effective therapy of receptor-mediated autoimmune diseases, which probably include the psychoses, is now apparent. It involves finding the autoantibodies, then cloning of their antigenic targets, as has been done for Graves' disease. This will provide knowledge of the peptide sequences necessary for constructing therapeutic agents for selectively destroying the pathogenic forbidden clones. Meanwhile, usage of short-term therapy with prednisone could be helpful in the management of schizophrenia and should be explored.
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