Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

UK Medics Solve Ancient Riddle Of 'Finger Clubbing'

Date:
June 5, 2008
Source:
University of Leeds
Summary:
A puzzling medical condition, identified more than 2,000 years ago by Hippocrates, has finally been explained by researchers at the University of Leeds. The phenomenon of "finger clubbing", a deformity of the fingers and fingernails, has been known for thousands of years, and has long been recognized to be a sign of a wide range of serious diseases -- especially lung cancer.

Classic symptoms of finger clubbing.
Credit: Image courtesy of University of Leeds

A puzzling medical condition, identified more than 2,000 years ago by Hippocrates, has finally been explained by researchers at the University of Leeds.

The phenomenon of "finger clubbing", a deformity of the fingers and fingernails, has been known for thousands of years, and has long been recognized to be a sign of a wide range of serious diseases –especially lung cancer.

"It's one of the first things they teach you at medical school," explained Professor David Bonthron of the Leeds Institute of Molecular Medicine. "You shake the patient by the hand, and take a good look at their fingers in the process."

Lung cancer, heart disease, hyperthyroidism, various gastrointestinal diseases and many other conditions all result in finger clubbing. But exactly why swollen, reddened fingers should be an indicator of serious illness has remained a mystery – until now.

"There are benign cases of clubbing, where it isn't associated with other illnesses, but particularly because of the link to lung cancer, it is generally regarded as rather sinister," said Bonthron. "You look at the range of conditions connected to finger clubbing and wonder what on earth they could have in common."

The researchers foundclues in the medical literature, detailing past cases and previous research. "We knew that in cystic fibrosis patients who have undergone a lung transplant, their finger clubbing goes away. The same goes for empyema patients who have had their lungs drained. It suggested that impaired lung function was somehow crucial to finger clubbing – but we didn't understand how."

Prof Bonthron, Dr Chris Bennett of the Yorkshire Regional Genetics Service and their colleagues studied a group of patients suffering from inherited primary hypertrophic osteoarthropathy (PHO), a genetic disorder in which the finger clubbing is accompanied by painful joint enlargement and a thickening of the bone.

Their findings implicateda fatty compound called PGE2, which is produced naturally by the body to mediate the effects of internal inflammation. Crucially, once it has done its work, PGE2 is broken down by an enzyme 15-HPGD, produced in the lungs. The patients followed by the Leeds study were found to have a genetic mutation which prevented the production of 15-HPGD, resulting in up to ten times as much of the PGE2 in their systems.

"If you don't have this enzyme the PGE2 isn't broken down normally and simply builds up," said Bonthron, whose findings are published online this week in Nature Genetics.

In lung cancer patients, it is most likely overproduction of PGE2 by the tumour that causes the clubbing. In congenital heart disease, blood bypasses the lungs, where PGE2 is normally broken down by 15-HPGD.

The researchers have suggested that a straightforward urine test for levels of PGE2 may be a useful first step in the diagnosis of individuals with unexplained clubbing, and to understanding whether it is the symptom of something far more serious. The results also suggest that existing drugs such as aspirin, which are already used to prevent PGE2 production, may be effective in reducing the painful symptoms of finger clubbing.

It has taken 2,000 years to make the connection, but Bonthron adds: "Actually, when you look back, it's rather obvious. When we found this gene, everything else fell neatly into place – it was like a smack on the forehead."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Leeds. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Uppal S, Diggle CP, Carr IM, Fishwick CWG, Ahmed M, Ibrahim GH, Helliwell PS, Latos-Bielenska A, Phillips SEV, Markham AF, Bennett CP, Bonthron DT. Mutations in 15-hydroxyprostaglandin dehydrogenase cause primary hypertrophic osteoarthropathy. Nature Genetics, 2008; 40 (6): 789 DOI: 10.1038/ng.153

Cite This Page:

University of Leeds. "UK Medics Solve Ancient Riddle Of 'Finger Clubbing'." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 June 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/05/080529163120.htm>.
University of Leeds. (2008, June 5). UK Medics Solve Ancient Riddle Of 'Finger Clubbing'. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/05/080529163120.htm
University of Leeds. "UK Medics Solve Ancient Riddle Of 'Finger Clubbing'." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/05/080529163120.htm (accessed July 31, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Dangerous Bacteria Kills One in Florida

Dangerous Bacteria Kills One in Florida

AP (July 31, 2014) Sarasota County, Florida health officials have issued a warning against eating raw oysters and exposing open wounds to coastal and inland waters after a dangerous bacteria killed one person and made another sick. (July 31) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Health Insurers' Profits Slide

Health Insurers' Profits Slide

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 30, 2014) Obamacare-related costs were said to be behind the profit plunge at Wellpoint and Humana, but Wellpoint sees the new exchanges boosting its earnings for the full year. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Peace Corps Pulls Workers From W. Africa Over Ebola Fears

Peace Corps Pulls Workers From W. Africa Over Ebola Fears

Newsy (July 30, 2014) The Peace Corps is one of several U.S.-based organizations to pull workers out of West Africa because of the Ebola outbreak. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Weather Kills 2K A Year, But Storms Aren't The Main Offender

Weather Kills 2K A Year, But Storms Aren't The Main Offender

Newsy (July 30, 2014) Health officials say 2,000 deaths occur each year in the U.S. due to weather, but it's excessive heat and cold that claim the most lives. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

    Environment News

    Technology News



      Save/Print:
      Share:

      Free Subscriptions


      Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

      Get Social & Mobile


      Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

      Have Feedback?


      Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
      Mobile: iPhone Android Web
      Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
      Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
      Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins