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In vitro-expanded antigen-specific regulatory T cells suppress autoimmune diabetes


The low number of CD4+ CD25+ regulatory T cells (Tregs), their anergic phenotype, and diverse antigen specificity present major challenges to harnessing this potent tolerogenic population to treat autoimmunity and transplant rejection. In this study, we describe a robust method to expand antigen-specific Tregs from autoimmune-prone nonobese diabetic mice. Purified CD4+ CD25+ Tregs were expanded up to 200-fold in less than 2 wk in vitro using a combination of anti-CD3, anti-CD28, and interleukin 2. The expanded Tregs express a classical cell surface phenotype and function both in vitro and in vivo to suppress effector T cell functions. Most significantly, small numbers of antigen-specific Tregs can reverse diabetes after disease onset, suggesting a novel approach to cellular immunotherapy for autoimmunity.

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