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Scientists discover how gold eases pain of arthritis
Date:10/22/2007

DURHAM, N.C. Scientists at Duke University Medical Center may have solved the mystery surrounding the healing properties of gold a discovery they say may renew interest in gold salts as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory diseases.

Physicians first used injections of gold salts in the early 1900s to ease the pain and swelling associated with arthritis. But treatment came at a high cost: The shots took months to take effect and side effects included rashes, mouth sores, kidney damage and occasionally, problems with the bone marrows ability to make new blood cells. Recently, new treatments like methotrexate and biologically engineered drugs have replaced gold as a preferred treatment, and gold salts, while remaining effective, are usually administered as a last resort.

But Dr. David Pisetsky, chief of the division of rheumatology and immunology in the department of medicine at Duke, says we shouldnt dismiss gold salts so quickly. We scientists have really never understood why gold works. Now that we have a better handle on its action, we may be able to use that mechanism to create new and better gold-like drugs to treat arthritis.

Pisetsky had long been interested in a particular molecule, HMBG1, which provokes inflammation, the key process underlying the development of rheumatoid arthritis. HMBG1 is a dual-function molecule, which means that it behaves one way when its inside the nucleus of a cell, and quite another way when its released from the cell.

Pisetsky says that inside the nucleus, HMGB1 is a key player in transcription, the process that converts genetic information in DNA to its RNA equivalent. But when HMGB1 is released from the cell either through normal processes or cell death it becomes a stimulus to the immune system and enhances inflammation.

Interestingly, HMGB1 is not produced evenly throughout the body, says Pisetsky.

There is an unusually high amount of it
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Contact: Michelle Gailiun
michelle.gailiun@duke.edu
919-660-1306
Duke University Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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