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Autoimmun Rev. 2014 Feb;13(2):187-96. doi: 10.1016/j.autrev.2013.09.007. Epub 2013 Oct 11.

T cells from autoimmune patients display reduced sensitivity to immunoregulation by mesenchymal stem cells: role of IL-2.

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Rappaport Faculty of Medicine, Technion, Haifa, Israel.


Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are multipotent progenitor cells which have been shown to possess broad immunoregulatory and anti-inflammatory capabilities, making them a promising tool to treat autoimmune diseases (AIDs). Nevertheless, as in recent years T cells from AID patients have been found to resist suppression by regulatory T cells, the question of whether they could be regulated by MSCs arises. To use MSCs as a therapeutic tool in human autoimmune diseases, one prerequisite is that T cells from autoimmune patients will be sensitive to these stem cells. The aim of this work was to investigate the ability of healthy donor derived MSCs to inhibit the proliferation of T cells from two pathophysiologically different AIDs: Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and Myasthenia Gravis (MG). We show that MSC-induced inhibition of interferon-γ production and surface expression of the CD3, CD4 and CD28 receptors by activated lymphocytes was similar in the AID patients and healthy controls. Contrarily, the MSCs' ability to suppress the proliferation of T cells of both diseases was significantly weaker compared to their ability to affect T cells of healthy individuals. Although we found that the inhibitory mechanism is mediated through CD14+ monocytes, the faulty cellular component is the patients' T cells. MSC-treated MS and MG lymphocytes were shown to produce significantly more IL-2 than healthy subjects while coupling of the MSC treatment with neutralizing IL-2 antibodies resulted in inhibition levels similar to those of the healthy controls. MSCs were also found to down-regulate the lymphocyte surface expression of the IL-2 receptor (CD25) through both transcription inhibition and induction of receptor shedding. Addition of IL-2 to MSC-inhibited lymphocytes restored proliferation thus suggesting a key role played by this cytokine in the inhibitory mechanism. Taken together, these results demonstrate the potential of a MSC-based cellular therapy for MS, MG and possibly other autoimmune diseases but also highlight the need for a better understanding of the underlying mechanisms for development and optimization of clinical protocols.


Cellular therapy; Immunomodulation; Mesenchymal stem cells; Multiple Sclerosis; Myasthenia Gravis

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