Autologous regulatory T cells for the treatment of type 1 diabetes

Curr Diab Rep. 2012 Oct;12(5):623-32. doi: 10.1007/s11892-012-0304-5.


The immune system is tasked with defending the host from a wide array of pathogens and environmental insults. When uncontrolled, this endeavor may lead to off-target reactivity to self-tissues resulting in multiple autoimmune diseases including type 1 diabetes (T1D). This multifactorial disease process involves over 40 susceptibility genes and is influenced by poorly characterized environmental factors. While many questions regarding the pathogenesis of the disease process remain, it has become increasingly clear that the progression to disease results from a breakdown in the processes that maintain peripheral immune tolerance. The end result of this process is localized tissue inflammation, islet dysfunction, and ultimately the destruction of pancreatic β cells due to concomitant defects in innate and adaptive immune responses. A number of immunomodulatory intervention trials have now been conducted in patients at risk for or with recent onset T1D, often with the goal of restoring immune tolerance by inducing regulatory T cells (Tregs). Unfortunately, many of these trials have fallen short of inducing persistent immune regulation. This shortfall has led to additional efforts to more directly shift the balance from destructive effector T cell (Teff) responses to favor Tregs, including the use of autologous Treg cell therapy. In this review we will discuss key concepts related to the use of autologous Treg cell therapy for the treatment of T1D. Among these topics, we will discuss the notions of genetic control of Treg activity, Treg cellular plasticity, and requirements for antigen-specificity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / immunology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / metabolism*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-2 / metabolism
  • Protein Tyrosine Phosphatases / metabolism
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / metabolism*


  • Interleukin-2
  • Protein Tyrosine Phosphatases