"the unwalkable disease"

by Vivienne Baillie Gerritsen

Health is really all a question of balance. Not too much of this, not too little of that. Gout is no exception. Throughout history, this particular form of arthrosis has been associated with the exaggerated consumption of rich foods and excessive alcohol, and consequently described as "arthritis of the rich" since, in the early days, only the higher classes of society seemed to suffer from it. However, as the excessive indulgence in over-rich foods has spread across a great part of the world, gout too has spread - and not only on a geographical scale but also throughout the various strata of human society. Gout is an inflammation caused by the accumulation of needle-like crystals of uric acid deposited in joints, tendons or their surrounding tissues. Uric acid comes from the breakdown of purine we ingest from the food we eat, and is usually processed by our kidneys and then eliminated with our urine. When too much uric acid is produced however, it precipitates as urate crystals that slowly build up finally causing excruciating pain - surprisingly at the base of the big toe in about half of gout cases. Why is uric acid elimination sometimes insufficient? Besides certain diets, there are a number of other reasons and one of them is the inherited dysfunction of a protein pump known as ABCG2.

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Protein Spotlight (ISSN 1424-4721) is a monthly review written by the Swiss-Prot team of the SIB Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics. Spotlight articles describe a specific protein or family of proteins on an informal tone. Follow us: Subscribe · Twitter · Facebook

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A little bit of praise!

“I recently stumbled upon your columns. Let me congratulate you on achieving the near impossible, for your articles have enabled me to successfully marry IT with the Life Sciences and better explain the concepts of bioinformatics to those who are not in the know of the field.

Your articles are very well written, lucid, and contain just enough information to excite the reader to want to learn more about the topic being discussed. They fall in a very rare category where they are accessible to everyone, from the undergraduate students to research students who want to have a basic idea of the topics being discussed. Some of your articles, like "Our hollow architecture" and "Throb" are outstanding pieces.

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Thank you to Karen Norberg whose work we reproduce on our site!