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25 April 2018
Dr Chris Hall and Prof Nicola Dalbeth from the University of Auckland have just discovered an unknown mechanism linking the immune system and gout thanks to the transparency of zebrafish larvae, which allows for a more dynamic study of the disease process.
We at ZeClinics are certainly delighted: Not only will their findings open the door to new anti-inflammatory treatments, but also highlight the human relevance and translatability of zebrafish in other autoinflammatory and autoimmune diseases which are rapidly becoming a major trend in healthcare.
Image credit: Dr Chris Hall, of the University of Auckland's Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences.
A tiny fish is helping to provide a medical breakthrough in treating extremely painful attacks of joint inflammation to gout patients.
Zebrafish is a popular aquarium creature that grows no longer than four centimetres, and scientists are using the species to find ways to prevent the bouts of inflammation. Gout is the most common inflammatory arthritis in New Zealand. Inflammation associated with it leads to extreme pain, disability and poor health. Acute gouty inflammation is triggered when urate crystals build up in and around joints, activating the immune system and causing extreme joint pain. Because the inflammation occurs in joints under the skin, researchers have traditionally relied on examining tissue samples that only provide a static snapshot of the disease process. At present there is a clinical need for new anti-inflammatory treatments for gout as current therapies have limited success.
University of Auckland researchers have used highly specialised microscopy to exploit the transparency of tiny zebrafish embryos to show the immune system responding to urate crystals.
Dr Chris Hall, of the university's Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, led the study with colleagues, including Professor Nicola Dalbeth, an academic rheumatologist and recognised expert in gout research.
"We've uncovered a previously unrecognised mechanism through which the immune system responds to urate crystals to drive inflammation," Hall says. "We've also shown our discovery translates to the human disease and that blocking this mechanism of immune cell activation represents a new strategy to alleviate gouty inflammation. "This work directly addresses an un-met need to find new ways to treat the debilitating inflammation associated with gout."
Hall says the study is of particular significance to New Zealand, with Māori and Pacific people having the highest prevalence of gout worldwide. His team's work recently received funding from the Health Research Council of NZ in the 2017 funding round to exploit the new findings and identify new anti-inflammatory treatments for gout.
Hall's study has also been recently published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation: Blocking fatty acid–fueled mROS production within macrophages alleviates acute gouty inflammation
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