Context: Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) exert an immunosuppressive effect on the immune system. However, studies on the immunomodulatory potential of MSCs in type 1 diabetes are lacking.
Objective: We aimed to evaluate whether human MSCs may inhibit in vitro pancreatic islet antigen-specific T cell activation in type 1 diabetes.
Design: Human MSCs were isolated and characterized. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) were obtained from nine type 1 diabetic patients at disease onset and 13 healthy control subjects. IFN-gamma, IL-10, and IL-4 enzyme-linked immunospot responses of lymphocytes incubated with glutamic acid decarboxylase 65 (GAD65) were investigated in PBMC cultures and PBMC/MSC cocultures. Levels of prostaglandin E2 (PGE2), IFN-gamma, IL-4, and IL-10 in supernatants were measured by ELISA. PGE2 inhibition experiments with NS-398 and indomethacin were also performed.
Results: Five diabetic patients were identified with a positive PBMC IFN-gamma response to GAD65 and negative IL-10 and IL-4 response. PBMC/MSC cocultures resulted in a significant decrease in the number of spots and in detection of IL-4-secreting cells. PGE2 inhibitors abrogated the immune-suppressive effect, indicating an involvement of PGE2 production, and the constitutive production of PGE2 by MSCs was enhanced in PBMC/MSC coculture. Moreover, in GAD-responder patients, GAD-stimulated PBMC/MSC cocultures significantly decreased secretion of IFN-gamma and IL-10 and increased secretion of IL-4.
Conclusions: These results provide evidence that human MSCs abrogate in vitro a proinflammatory T helper type 1 response to an islet antigenic stimulus in type 1 diabetes. MSCs induce IL-4-producing cells, suggesting a possible switch to an antiinflammatory T helper type 2 signaling of T cells.