Gout is one of the most painful forms of arthritis and is caused by the build-up of crystals of uric acid (MSU) in the joints. The immune system identifies MSU crystal deposition as a ‘danger signal’. This initiates the rapid inflammatory response responsible for swelling, heat and intense pain in the affected joint. Development of chronic gout can lead to severe joint damage and loss of joint function. The prevalence of gout in New Zealand is twice that observed internationally and it is three times more common in Maori and Pacific populations.
The main focus of the Malaghan Institute's Arthritis & Inflammation Research led by Dr Jacquie Harper is to advance our understanding of the cellular processes involved in MSU-induced inflammation, with the goal of identifying therapeutic targets and new markers of disease progression for gouty arthritis. This research is being undertaken using experimental laboratory models and, where possible, in a clinical setting with the involvement of patients.In conjunction with this work is a separate drug discovery programme aimed at identifying potential therapeutic compounds that can be used to halt disease progression.
Arthritis Foundation of New Zealand, Foundation for Research, Science & Technology, Health Research Council of New Zealand, New Zealand Lottery Health Research, Nikau Foundation, Wellington Medical Research Foundation