Thesis Ellen Wehrens: “Vive La Résistance!? – How T cells escape regulation in autoimmune inflammation”


Thesis: Vive La Résistance!? – How T cells escape regulation in autoimmune inflammation

Author: Ellen Wehrens – Pediatric immunology department (‘Prakken group’) – Wilhelmina Children’s Hospital Utrecht, The Netherlands 

FOXP3+ regulatory T cells can suppress the activation and effector functions of a wide range of immune cells and are critically involved in maintaining immune homeostasis. Studies in both mice and human have shown that a shortage in the number of regulatory T cells can lead to the development of autoimmune disease. Therefore, regulatory T cells are considered important targets for the treatment of autoimmune disease and several strategies to enhance regulatory T cells in patients with autoimmune disease are being explored.

In this thesis we investigated regulatory T cell numbers and function in patients with juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA). We established that regulatory T cells are not deficient in JIA patients, as high amounts of regulatory T cells are present in inflamed joints and these cells display efficient suppressive capacity. Instead, the effector cells driving joint inflammation are so highly activated that they are no longer responsive to suppression. This unresponsiveness of effector cells to suppression could therefore be targeted to treat autoimmune inflammation in patients with JIA.

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