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2001 | 49 | 1 suppl. | 23-32

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Regulation of immune responses by natural killer T cells

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Natural killer T (NKT) cells, which comprise a minor population of T cells in primary and secondary lymphoid organs, possess phenotypic characteristics of both NK and T cells. NKT cells respond to various external stimuli by an early burst of cytokines, including IL-4 and IFN-. Thus, a key immunoregulatory role has been attributed to them. Autoimmune diseases, especially type I diabetes (TID), may be caused by dysregulation of the immune system, which leads to hyporesponsiveness of regulatory T helper 2 (Th2) cells and promotion of autoimmune Th1 cells. Furthermore, several lines of evidence exist to support the notion that an NKT cell deficiency in individuals at risk of TID may be causal to TID. As a result, targeting NKT cells using immunotherapeutic agents may prove beneficial in the prevention or recurrence of TID. Indeed, our data demonstrate that stimulation of NKT cells with a specific ligand prevents the onset and recurrence of TID in non-obese diabetic (NOD) mice.




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S. Sharif, Autoimmunity/Diabetes Group, The John P. Robarts Research Institute, and Departments of Microbiology and Immunology, and of Medicine, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario N6G 2V4, Canada


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