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Regulatory T cells as a new therapeutic target for atherosclerosis

Acta Pharmacologica Sinicavolume 39pages12491258 (2018) | Download Citation



Atherosclerosis is an autoimmune disease caused by self- and non-self-antigens contributing to excessive activation of T and B cell immune responses. These responses further aggravate vascular infiammation and promote progression of atherosclerosis and vulnerability to plaques via releasing pro-infiammatory cytokines. Regulatory T cells (Tregs) as the major immunoregulatory cells, in particular, induce and maintain immune homeostasis and tolerance by suppressing the immune responses of various cells such as T and B cells, natural killer (NK) cells, monocytes, and dendritic cells (DCs), as well as by secreting inhibitory cytokines interleukin (IL)-10, IL-35 and transcription growth factor β (TGF-β) in both physiological and pathological states. Numerous evidence demonstrates that reduced numbers and dysfunction of Treg may be involveved in atherosclerosis pathogenesis. Increasing or restoring the numbers and improving the immunosuppressive capacity of Tregs may serve as a fundamental immunotherapy to treat atherosclerotic cardiovascular diseases. In this article, we briefiy present current knowledge of Treg subsets, summarize the relationship between Tregs and atherosclerosis development, and discuss the possibilities of regulating Tregs for prevention of atherosclerosis pathogenesis and enhancement of plaque stability. Although the exact molecular mechanisms of Treg-mediated protection against atherosclerosis remain to be elucidated, the strategies for targeting the regulation of Tregs may provide specific and significant approaches for the prevention and treatment of atherosclerotic cardiovascular diseases.

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This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No 81670401), the Scientific Research Innovation Program of post-graduate in Hu-nan Province (No CX2017B554), the Construct Program of the Key Discipline in Hu-nan Province (Basic Medicine Sciences in University of South China) and the Zhengxiang Scholar (Xiang-yang TANG) Program of the University of South China.

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  1. These authors contributed equally to this work.


  1. Clinical Anatomy & Reproductive Medicine Application Institute, Department of Histology and Embryology, University of South China, Hengyang, 421001, China

    • Han-xiao Ou
    • , Bing-bing Guo
    • , Qi Liu
    • , Yu-kun Li
    •  & Zhong-cheng Mo
  2. 2016 Grade Clinical Medicine Class of Medical School, University of South China, Hengyang, 421001, China

    • Zhen Yang
  3. 2015 Grade Medical Imaging Class of Medical School, University of South China, Hengyang, 421001, China

    • Wen-jie Feng


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