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Immunobiology. 2009;214(9-10):791-9. doi: 10.1016/j.imbio.2009.06.002. Epub 2009 Jul 22.

Plasmacytoid dendritic cells in autoimmune diabetes - potential tools for immunotherapy.

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Department of Immunology, Erasmus MC, University Medical Center, Rotterdam, The Netherlands.


Type 1 diabetes (T1D) is an autoimmune disease in which a T-cell-mediated attack destroys the insulin-producing cells of the pancreatic islets. Despite insulin supplementation severe complications ask for novel treatments that aim at cure or delay of the onset of the disease. In spontaneous animal models for diabetes like the nonobese diabetic (NOD) mouse, distinct steps in the pathogenesis of the disease can be distinguished. In the past 10 years it became evident that DC and macrophages play an important role in all three phases of the pathogenesis of T1D. In phase 1, dendritic cells (DC) and macrophages accumulate at the islet edges. In phase 2, DC and macrophages are involved in the activation of autoreactive T cells that accumulate in the pancreas. In the third phase the islets are invaded by macrophages, DC and NK cells followed by the destruction of the beta-cells. Recent data suggest a role for a new member of the DC family: the plasmacytoid DC (pDC). pDC have been found to induce tolerance in experimental models of asthma. Several studies in humans and the NOD mouse support a similar role for pDC in diabetes. Mechanisms found to be involved in tolerance induction by pDC are inhibition of effector T cells, induction of regulatory T cells, production of cytokines and indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase (IDO). The exact mechanism of tolerance induction by pDC in diabetes remains to be established but the intrinsic tolerogenic properties of pDC provide a promising, yet underestimated target for therapeutic intervention.

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