Synthetic ‘organ' helps stop gout
A plastic capsule implanted under the skin could help regulate metabolic processes, a study on mice has revealed.
Gout is a condition in which the body cannot regulate the amount of uric acid present. A build up of uric acid can result in the painful formation of salt crystals in the kidneys and joints. Researchers designed a small capsule, 0.2mm in diameter, containing cells genetically engineered to lower excess uric acid. The cells detect when the acid reaches harmful levels and secrete the enzyme urate oxydase to break down the excess. The mice in the study showed significant improvement once the capsule was implanted, metabolising uric acid at a normal rate. In effect the capsule acted as an extra ‘organ', regulating the imbalance.
Gout affects approximately one in a hundred people in the UK. Risk of developing the condition may increase as a result of drinking alcohol or eating foods high in purines, a type of acid found in red meat and seafood. Scientists believe the implant is an effective way for the body to regulate the metabolism without taking prescribed medication over long periods of time. In the future it could be used to treat other metabolic imbalances such as diabetes. Human trials of the synthetic organ could begin in two years.