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Curr Opin Allergy Clin Immunol. 2004 Feb;4(1):39-44.

The role of dendritic cells in asthma.

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Telethon Institute for Child Health Research, and Centre for Child Health Research, Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, The University of Western Australia, Perth, Western Australia.



The central importance of respiratory tract dendritic cells in the regulation of adaptive immune responses to inhaled antigens is now well established. Dendritic cells are not merely a conduit for the transfer of antigen to regional lymph nodes, but rather function as a sophisticated information transfer system linking the airway micro-environment to the adaptive immune system. Evidence from both animal models and clinical studies points to a critical role for dendritic cells in both allergic sensitization and the pathogenesis of chronic airway inflammation.


This article reviews recent information on the distribution and function of dendritic cells in healthy individuals, the responsiveness of these cells to external stimuli, and the factors regulating their activation and turnover within the lung. Animal models of allergic airway inflammation continue to shed new light on the role of lung dendritic cells in T helper 1/T helper 2 switching, and the ability of these cells to direct regulatory T-cell development and immune tolerance. Recent studies have further characterized circulating dendritic cell populations, highlighting important functional differences between dendritic cells from atopic and nonatopic individuals, and have delineated the involvement of these cells in the late phase response to inhaled allergen.


Because of the immunoregulatory properties of dendritic cells, the future is likely to see a concerted effort to further define the role that these cells play in allergic sensitization, as a basis for the development of new treatments for asthma and other atopic disorders.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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