Alex Dean

Researchers looks to inhibit STING to treat autoimmune disease

Discussion created by Alex Dean on Apr 25, 2019

STING is part of the innate immune system, the body’s first line of response to foreign invaders. The protein is like a molecular fire alarm that is triggered by errant DNA signaling the presence of a bacterial or viral infection. Once STING is activated, it causes a cascade of molecular events that leads to inflammation.

Cancer companies want to intentionally trigger STING to spur inflammation in tumors, which may help recruit cancer-killing immune cells and boost the effectiveness of a popular class of immunotherapy drugs called checkpoint inhibitors. In some diseases, like STING-associated vasculopathy with onset in infancy (SAVI), a mutation in the protein itself can lead to perpetual STING activation and inflammation. In other diseases, like Aicardi-Goutières syndrome, mutations in DNA-degrading proteins lead to a buildup of DNA inside cells, triggering STING. There are instances where STING is activated by damaged cells releasing their own DNA.