Rev Diabet Stud, 2005, 2(4):182-186 DOI 10.1900/RDS.2005.2.182

Imbalance in Th Cell Polarization and its Relevance in Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus

Charles Sia

Department of Immunology, United Biomedical Inc., 25 Davids Drive, Hauppage, New York 11788, USA, e-mail: csia@unitedbiomedical.com.


Functional polarization of T helper (Th) subsets of lymphocytes has been implicated in promoting or conferring risk to Type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM) development in human and diabetic animal models. It is assumed that an immoderate preponderance of type 1 immunity establishes the prerequisite for this development. Over the past years, various immune-intervention strategies have been tested to protect diabetic animals from developing overt diabetes. These protocols implicate a protective mechanism that is attributed to a change in the set of autoreactive Th cells from their Th1 to the Th2 phenotype. The studies were aimed at improving the effectiveness of Th2 cells to secrete the principal cytokines, IL-4 and IL-10, in order to mediate protection from diabetes in NOD mice. In contrast, some immune-modulation protocols utilizing non-specific reagents report that diabetes protection is apparently attributed to preferential survival of both Th1 and Th2 cells, rather than via a shift from their Th1 to Th2 phenotypes. Even though we know that excessive immune responses against self antigens are also controlled and terminated by regulatory T cells, this article focuses on the polarization of Th effector cells and discusses the controversial findings regarding the Th1/Th2 hypothesis to draw a conclusion on its relevance in T1DM from the existing knowledge.

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