Regulatory T cells prevent autoimmunity by suppressing the reactivity of potentially aggressive self-reactive T cells. Contact-dependent CD4+ CD25+ professional suppressor cells and other cytokine-producing CD4+ and CD8+ T-cell subsets mediate this protective function. Evidence will be reviewed that T cells primed with transforming growth factor (TGF)-β expand rapidly following restimulation. Certain CD4+ T cells become contact-dependent suppressor cells and other CD4+ and CD8+ cells become cytokine-producing regulatory cells. This effect is dependent upon a sufficient amount of IL-2 in the microenvironment to overcome the suppressive effects of TGF-β. The adoptive transfer of these suppressor cells generated ex vivo can protect mice from developing chronic graft versus host disease with a lupus-like syndrome and alter the course of established disease. These data suggest that autologous T cells primed and expanded with TGF-β have the potential to be used as a therapy for patients with systemic lupus erythematosus and other chronic inflammatory diseases. This novel adoptive immunotherapy also has the potential to prevent the rejection of allogeneic transplants.
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