A revolutionary technique that has been found to successfully treat the symptoms of gout could result in a new form of therapy for a range of other medical conditions - such as diabetes and obesity, say experts.
Gout is caused by a build up of uric acid in the bloodstream, which results in crystals of uric acid being deposited in the kidneys and joints, leading to bouts of extreme pain.
Professor Martin Fussenegger of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich designed a 'molecular prosthesis' to treat gout, which is made from human cells designed to detect an increase in levels of uric acid and to respond by secreting an enzyme called urate oxydase, which destroys uric acid.
The treatment consists of implanting a small plastic capsule under the skin, which is loaded with genetically engineered cells taken from the patients themselves.
The capsule effectively works as a synthetic organ balancing the body's chemicals and hormones.
"We have constructed a synthetic genetic circuitry that can detect uric acid in the bloodstream and process this information to produce a therapeutic response," the Independent quoted Fussenegger as saying.
Tests on laboratory mice have proved the efficacy of the new technique.
According to scientists, human clinical trials could begin in two years.
The researchers hope to adapt the technique so that the genetically engineered human cells living in the plastic capsules can be programmed to deal with a range of other metabolic disorders, such as the hormonal imbalances leading to diabetes and obesity.
The new research has been published in the journal Nature Biotechnology.