New funding for important gout research

10 May 2013

Research into the feasibility of using allopurinol for the prevention of gout was funded this month by a grant from the Health Research Council.

Gout is a common form of inflammatory arthritis that causes severe joint pain, disability and joint damage.

The Feasibility Study Grant for $144,506 from the HRC was made to The University of Auckland’s Associate Professor Nicola Dalbeth from the Department of Medicine for a nine-month study called ‘Allopurinol for prevention of gout: A feasibility study’.

“New Zealand has the highest rates of gout in the world,” says Dr Dalbeth

She says that gout is caused by high blood urate levels which lead to urate crystals forming in the joints. Once the disease develops, it is usually treated with allopurinol, a medication that reduces urate levels.

“We are proposing a clinical trial to determine whether allopurinol treatment can safely prevent the development of gout in people with very high blood urate levels, but without arthritis,” says Dr Dalbeth. “Prior to embarking on this study, we wish to undertake a feasibility study to ensure that sufficient participants with the required characteristics are available for the main study, that the planned treatment is acceptable to potential participants, and that the dual energy CT scanning procedures we will be using are accurate in early disease.”

Assoc Prof Dalbeth is an academic rheumatologist who coordinates a clinical and laboratory programme of research in gout. Her work focuses on understanding the impact and mechanisms of disease in chronic gout.

The clinical research includes clinical trials, imaging studies (using plain radiographs, MRI and three-dimensional CT modeling to analyze joint damage in gout), studies to investigate the functional impact of chronic gout, and validation of outcome measures in gout.

The laboratory work in the Auckland Bone and Joint Research Laboratory involves investigating the cellular and molecular mechanisms of inflammation and joint damage in chronic gout.