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Results Probl Cell Differ. 2010;51:127-47. doi: 10.1007/400_2009_11.

Role of NK cells and invariant NKT cells in multiple sclerosis.

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  • 1Department of Immunology, National Institute of Neuroscience, National Center of Neurology and Psychiatry, 4-1-1 Ogawahigashi, Kodaira, Tokyo, 187-8502, Japan.


Natural killer (NK) cells and invariant natural killer T (iNKT) cells are two distinctive lymphocyte populations, each possessing its own unique features. Although NK cells are innate lymphocytes with cytotoxic property, they play an immunoregulatory role in the pathogenesis of autoimmune diseases. NKT cells are T cells expressing invariant TCR a-chains, which are known to bridge innate and adaptive arms of the immune system. Accumulating data now support active involvement of these cells in multiple sclerosis (MS). However, unlike professionally committed regulatory cells such as Foxp3(+) regulatory T cells, NK, and iNKT cells have dual potential of acting as either protective or pathogenic lymphocytes depending on the disease setting, adding complexity to the interpretation of data obtained from human and rodent studies. They are potential therapeutic targets in MS, and further in-depth understanding of these cells will lead to designing new strategies to overcome the disabling disease MS.

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