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Rev Diabet Stud, 2010, 7(1):6-14 DOI 10.1900/RDS.2010.7.6

Functional Alterations of Proinflammatory Monocytes by T Regulatory Cells: Implications for the Prevention and Reversal of Type 1 Diabetes

Charles Sia1, Arno Hänninen2

1Vaccine Center, National Health Research Institutes, Zhunan Township, Miaoli County, Taiwan 350
2Department of Medical Microbiology & Immunology, Turku University, Finland
Address correspondence to: Charles Sia, e-mail:

Manuscript submitted April 2, 2010; resubmitted April 22, 2010; accepted May 3, 2010.

Keywords: type 1 diabetes, monocyte, regulatory T cell, autoimmunity, dendritic cell, cytokines, NOD mouse


The onset and development of type 1 diabetes (T1D) occurs in genetically predisposed individuals, and is attributed to autoimmune destruction of pancreatic β-cells involving a multitude of immune mechanisms. Defects in immune regulation may play a central role in T1D, involving impaired function and communication of both myeloid and lymphoid cells of the innate and adaptive immune compartments. Dendritic cells and regulatory T (Treg) cells are part of this network, which seem to be hampered in their quest to control and regulate tissue-destructive autoimmunity. Recent studies have shown that in vivo activated CD16- blood monocytes exhibiting proinflammatory features are present in diabetic subjects. These monocytes may govern T cell-mediated immune responses towards the development of tissue-destructive Th1 and Th17 subtypes, and give rise to inflammatory macrophages in tissues. Differential effects of cytokines IFN-γ and IL-4 in the development of inflammatory macrophages, and the distinct developmental pathways of proinflammatory or tissue-repair-associated monocytes suggest that controlling the activity of these monocytes could be part of an immune intervention strategy to prevent T1D. Similarly, strategies to target autoantigens to immature, steady-state dendritic cells could guide the immune response away from Th1 and Th17 immune effectors. This review examines potential approaches to this goal by manipulation of myeloid and lymphoid cell regulatory networks in T1D.

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