The current status of therapeutic vaccines for autoimmune diseases is reviewed with rheumatoid arthritis as the focus. Therapeutic vaccines for autoimmune diseases must regulate or subdue responses to common self-antigens. Ideally, such a vaccine would initiate an antigen-specific modulation of the T-cell immune response that drives the inflammatory disease. Appropriate animal models and types of T helper cells and signature cytokine responses that drive autoimmune disease are also discussed. Interpretation of these animal models must be done cautiously because the means of initiation, autoantigens, and even the signature cytokine and T helper cell (Th1 or Th17) responses that are involved in the disease may differ significantly from those in humans. We describe ligand epitope antigen presentation system vaccine modulation of T-cell autoimmune responses as a strategy for the design of therapeutic vaccines for rheumatoid arthritis, which may also be effective in other autoimmune conditions.
Keywords: arthritis-specific antigens; arthritogenic epitopes; autoimmune disease; bystander effect; epitope spreading; rheumatoid arthritis; signature cytokine; therapeutic vaccines.