Dr. Daniel Kastner, Sammies 2018 finalist and scientific director of the Division of Intramural Research at the National Institutes of Health, discusses his work researching auto-inflammatory diseases, and how his work has helped to develop treatments.
Autoinflammatory diseases are some of the most difficult illnesses to treat. Not only are these genetic diseases sometimes fatal, but because they affect the body’s immune system, the patients are incredibly vulnerable to additional infection. Dr. Daniel Kastner, scientific director of the National Institutes of Health Division of Intramural Research, has dedicated his life to the study and treatment of these illnesses, and is a 2018 Samuel J. Heyman Medal finalist for his efforts. Kastner said that from his work, we now know much more about autoinflammatory diseases than we used to, which in turn helped us learn more about the immune system. “At this point, there are over 25 different diseases that we now know are autoinflammatory diseases. There are different mechanisms that are involved in the diseases, whether it be interleukin 1, interferon, various other mediators of inflammation. They are important not just in the rare diseases where we or other people have discovered abnormalities in those genes, but they are sort of the building blocks of the immune system,” said Kastner. “By understanding these things, these mediators of inflammation, then we get insights into other inflammatory processes in much more common diseases. For example, the inhibiters of interleukin 1, which are very important in these rare autoinflammatory diseases, there’s evidence now that they may be effective in some cases in cardiovascular disease. You start with something rare and expand to something that could be quite common.”