Fatty acids can slow down an overheated immune system

September 21, 2018, Aarhus University
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Sometimes, the immune system mistakenly attacks the body's healthy tissue by responding to infections that do not exist. This causes chronic inflammation and leads to diseases including lupus (SLE), and this is what happens when the body activates the STING protein. Now, researchers from Aarhus University have discovered that a new type of fatty acid can slow down this overactive protein. This has opened a new path that may possibly result in therapies for diseases that currently have no effective treatments. The results have just been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Hope for treatment of life-threatening diseases

The discovery is relevant to all autoimmune diseases related to STING, but in particular for suffering from the disease STING-associated vasculopathy (SAVI) with onset in infancy. The disease was first discovered in 2014, and researchers are 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 , the disease affects the patients in infancy, leading to stunted growth, psoriasis-like rashes on the skin and impaired lung function. The current treatment is ineffective, 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.

The result comes after three years of work, during which the researchers added the new fatty acid to living cells from SAVI patients in laboratory tests. They observed that STING stops forming the substances that start the inflammation. Despite the fact that there is still a long way to go before researchers know for certain whether this is also the case when testing on humans, a STING-inhibiting substance is good news among researchers and in the pharmaceutical industry, which has spent a lot of time looking for such a treatment. The fatty acid is formed naturally in the body, and could therefore be easier to develop as treatment than an artificially manufactured substance. It is currently being tested as medication.

Explore further: Study shows 'precision nutrition' may prevent non-alcoholic fatty liver disease

More information: Anne Louise Hansen et al, Nitro-fatty acids are formed in response to virus infection and are potent inhibitors of STING palmitoylation and signaling, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2018). DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1806239115

Related Stories

Study shows 'precision nutrition' may prevent non-alcoholic fatty liver disease

September 20, 2018
A study led by researchers from the Texas A&M University System and Central Texas Veterans Health Care System, or CTVHCS, shows how a protein known as STING could be a therapeutic target for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, ...

New small molecules for the treatment of autoinflammatory diseases

July 5, 2018
EPFL scientists have discovered two small-molecule compound series that can effectively block a central pathway of the innate immune system, offering a promising new way for treating autoinflammatory diseases. The study is ...

Step-by-step account of systemic lupus erythematosus development revealed

July 12, 2018
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a chronic disease that causes inflammation and tissue damage. SLE can involve many organs and systems and has a poor prognosis. It is one of a large group of autoimmune disorders, which ...

Scientists identify gene linked to fatal inflammatory disease in children

July 16, 2014
Investigators have identified a gene that underlies a very rare but devastating autoinflammatory condition in children. Several existing drugs have shown therapeutic potential in laboratory studies, and one is currently being ...

Influenza viruses can hide from the immune system

February 23, 2016
Influenza is able to mask itself, so that the virus is not initially detected by our immune system. This is the result of new research from Aarhus University. The researchers behind the study hope that the discovery can be ...

Recommended for you

Sugar, a 'sweet' tool to understand brain injuries

October 15, 2018
Australian researchers have developed ground-breaking new technology which could prove crucial in treating brain injuries and have multiple other applications, including testing the success of cancer therapies.

Scientists reveal new cystic fibrosis treatments work best in inflamed airways

October 11, 2018
A new UNC School of Medicine study shows that two cystic fibrosis (CF) drugs aimed at correcting the defected CFTR protein seem to be more effective when a patient's airway is inflamed. This is the first study to evaluate ...

Microbiome profiling reveals associations with ulcerative colitis severity, treatment

October 11, 2018
A study of gut microbes from more than 400 children points to how the microbiome behaves in this inflammatory bowel disease.

Inflammation in the womb may explain why some babies are more prone to sepsis after birth

October 9, 2018
Each year 15 million infants are born preterm and face high risks of short- and long-term complications, including sepsis, severe inflammation of the gut, and neurodevelopmental disorders. A new report in the American Journal ...

Dummies not to blame for common speech disorder in kids

October 9, 2018
New University of Sydney research shows bottles, dummies, and thumb sucking in the early years of life do not cause or worsen phonological impairment, the most common type of speech disorder in children.

'Genes are not destiny' when it comes to weight

October 9, 2018
A healthy home environment could help offset children's genetic susceptibilities to obesity, according to new research led by UCL.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

SusejDog
not rated yet Sep 21, 2018
Meanwhile, ashwagandha and its extracts, i.e. Sensoril, work for this indicationif taken daily.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.