Scientists have identified a gene linked to higher gout risk, which they claim could be the reason why millions worldwide fall prey to the painful joint condition. The researchers at the MRC Human Genetics Unit in Edinburgh have found a variation in the SLC2A gene which makes it harder for the body to remove uric acid from the blood and thereby increasing the risk of developing gout.
According to lead researcher Prof Alan Wright, "The gene is a key player in determining the efficiency of uric acid transport across the membranes of the kidney."
Added co-researcher Harry Campbell: "Some people will have higher or lower risk of gout depending on the form of the gene they inherited. This discovery may allow better diagnostic tools for gout to be developed."
The researchers came to the conclusion after they carried out genetic analysis of over 12,000 people. They found that the gene variant raises the risk - the results of the study have been published in the Nature Genetics journal.
According to them, the SLC2A gene and the protein it controls might one day be targeted by new gout drugs. At the moment, drug treatment for patients is limited.
Dr Andrew Bamji, the President of the British Society for Rheumatology, said that the research supported a recent study which suggested that too many sugary soft drinks could trigger gout.
"It appears that this gene also plays a role in the control of levels of fructose sugar in the body, which would explain the finding that soft drinks were linked to attacks," the BBC News portal quoted him as saying.