The immune tolerance network: a new paradigm for developing tolerance-inducing therapies

J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2002 Jul;110(1):17-23. doi: 10.1067/mai.2002.124258.


Immune tolerance therapies are designed to reprogram immune cells in a highly specific fashion to eliminate pathogenic responses while preserving protective immunity. A concept that has tantalized immunologists for decades, the development of tolerance-inducing therapies, would revolutionize the management of a wide range of chronic and often debilitating diseases by obviating the need for lifelong immunosuppressive regimens. The advances of the past decade have provided a more detailed understanding of the molecular events associated with T-cell recognition and activation. Building on these advances, immunologists have demonstrated the feasibility of various tolerance-inducing approaches in small- and large-animal models of autoimmunity, allergy, and transplant graft rejection. Unprecedented opportunities to test these approaches in a variety of human diseases have now emerged. To capitalize on these advances, the National Institutes of Health recently established the Immune Tolerance Network (ITN), an international consortium of more than 70 basic and clinical immunologists dedicated to the evaluation of novel tolerance-inducing therapies and associated studies of immunologic mechanisms. By using a unique interactive approach to accelerate the development of clinical tolerance therapies, the ITN is partnering with the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries to examine innovative tolerogenic approaches in a range of allergic and autoimmune diseases and to prevent graft rejection after transplantation. Two years since its inception, the ITN now has approximately 2 dozen clinical trials or tolerance assays studies ongoing or in later stages of protocol development. This report summarizes the rationale for emphasizing clinical research on immune tolerance and highlights the progress of the ITN.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Autoimmune Diseases / immunology
  • Autoimmune Diseases / therapy
  • Graft Rejection / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity / immunology
  • Hypersensitivity / therapy
  • Immune Tolerance*
  • Information Services*
  • International Cooperation*
  • Research*