Researchers have found why some people are more susceptible than others to gout, a kind of inflammatory arthritis caused by increased levels of uric acid in the blood.
The susceptibility to this condition, often called the “disease of kings” because people on a rich meat and drinking diet suffer from it, lies in our genes, according to a new study published in Nature Genetics.
A team of international scientists including researchers from the University of Edinburgh and Queen Mary, University of London, has identified 18 new genetic variations that are associated with increased levels of uric acid in the blood, which leads to the formation of crystals in the joints, causing swelling and pain.
The researchers point out that gout is becoming more widespread in the developed nations, with the rise in gout cases being put down in part to the more obese and aging population in those countries.
The scientists analysed the genetic information of over 140,000 people in Europe, the USA, Australia and Japan.
Understanding how the genetic variants raise the uric acid levels, the main cause of gout, is crucial for improving the treatment and prevention of this debilitating condition, according to lead authors Veronique Vitart from the University of Edinburgh and Mark Caulfield from the William Harvey Research Institute at Queen Mary. It could also add to research into urate-reducing medicines.
One in 70 adults in the UK has gout with about 900,000 people having suffered at least one gout attack during their life. The disease is much more common in men than in women.