New study finds a type of fatty acid that can slow down the overactive protein and may open up a new path for potential treatments for the disease caused due to the overactive protein. The findings of the study are published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Rarely the body's immune system mistakenly attacks the body's healthy tissue by reacting to infections that do not exist leading to chronic inflammation and diseases like Lupus when the immune system overreacts.
‘STING protein is usually a vital part of our immune system, but sometimes in few autoimmune diseases, it is itself the cause of the disease. But, a new type of fatty acid discovered can slow down the overreactive immune system which may lead to possible treatments for the disease.
Hope for treatment of life-threatening diseases
The discovery is relevant in connection with all autoimmune diseases related to STING, but in particular for patients suffering from the disease SAVI (STING-associated vasculopathy with onset in infancy). The disease was first discovered in 2014, and it is therefore still uncertain how many people suffer from it.
Patients with SAVI are born with a genetic defect that causes STING to become chronically overactive - which makes them very ill. Unlike many other autoimmune diseases, the disease already affects the patients in infancy, leading to stunted growth, psoriasis-like rashes on the skin and impaired lung function. The treatment currently available to treat the disease is poor, and the disease itself is life-threatening.
"Our results bring hope that we can develop effective medicine for the affected children. We also hope that the discovery can be of significance for the treatment of lupus, which is an inflammatory disease of the connective tissue, where STING also plays a role. It affects up to fifty out of every hundred thousand people, primarily women," says Associate Professor Christian Holm from the Department of Biomedicine at Aarhus University. He is responsible for the research results in collaboration with Ph.D. student Anne Louise Hansen from the same department, together with international partners.
Path to medicine may be shorter
The result comes after three years of work, during which time the researchers have added the new fatty acid to living cells from SAVI patients in laboratory tests.
Here they could see that STING stops forming the substances that start the inflammation. Although there is still a long way to go before we know for certain whether this is also the case when testing on humans, a STING-inhibiting substance is really good news among researchers and in the pharmaceutical industry, which has spent a lot of time looking for just this.
The fatty acid is already formed naturally in the body, and there is; therefore, it will potentially be less difficult to develop a form of medication, compared to if it were an artificially manufactured substance. At the same time, the fatty acid is already in the process of being tested as medication, and though it may be necessary to alter it a little to get it to work specifically on STING, the long and complicated process of developing a form of medication may nevertheless be shorter.