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Autoimmun Rev. 2013 May;12(7):709-16. doi: 10.1016/j.autrev.2012.10.004. Epub 2012 Nov 24.

Stem cells in autoimmune diseases: Implications for pathogenesis and future trends in therapy.

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  • 1Rheumatology Unit, Clinical Science and Biotechnology Department, University of L'Aquila, Italy.


In this review we report the recent progresses, available in the literature, concerning the biology and the potential therapeutic role of both mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) and hematopoietic stem cells in autoimmune diseases. Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are responsible for the normal turnover and maintenance of adult mesenchymal tissues and their pleiotropic nature allows them to sense and respond to an event in the local environment, be it injury or inflammation. Recently, MSCs have been shown to have immune-modulatory properties and immunosuppressive capacities, acting on different immune cells both in vitro and in vivo, in addition to an immunologically privileged phenotype. Moreover, several works suggest that MSCs are defective in autoimmune diseases. These aspects are now considered the most intriguing aspect of their biology, introducing the possibility that these cells might be used as effective therapy in autoimmune diseases. Autoimmune diseases represent a failure of normal immune regulatory processes as they are characterized by activation and expansion of immune cell subsets in response to non-pathogenic stimuli. As autoimmune diseases can be transferred, or alternatively, cured, by stem cell transplantation, a defect in the hemopoietic stem cell as a cause of autoimmune diseases may be postulated. The rationale for autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) in autoimmune diseases is the ablation of an aberrant or self-reactive immune system by chemotherapy and regeneration of a new and hopefully self-tolerant immune system from hematopoietic stem cells. In the past 15years, more than 1500 patients worldwide have received HSCT, mostly autologous, as treatment for a severe autoimmune disease and the majority were affected by multiple sclerosis, systemic sclerosis, systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis, juvenile idiopathic arthritis and idiopathic cytopenic purpura.

Copyright © 2012 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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