Introduction: Exploitation of antigen-specific regulatory T cells (Tregs) as critical regulators in the control of chronic inflammatory diseases is hampered by the obscure nature of most disease-relevant autoantigens. Heat shock proteins (Hsp) are possible targets for Tregs due to their enhanced expression in inflamed (stressed) tissues and there is evidence that Hsp can induce anti-inflammatory immunoregulatory T-cell responses.
Areas covered: Recent publications showing that exogenous administration of stress proteins has induced immunoregulation in various models of inflammatory disease have also been shown to be effective in first clinical trials in humans. Now, in the light of a growing interest in T-cell regulation, it is of interest to further explore the mechanisms through which Hsp can be utilized to trigger immunoregulatory pathways, capable of suppressing such a wide and diversified spectrum of inflammatory diseases.
Expert opinion: Therapeutic approaches via exploitation of antigen-specific Tregs will benefit from tailor-made combination therapies. Combining current therapeutic approaches with Hsp-specific therapies thereby enhancing natural immune regulation might expedite the entry of antigen-specific regulatory T cells into the therapeutic arsenal of the anti-inflammatory therapeutics.