Natural killer T (NKT) cells are credited with regulatory roles in immunity against cancers, autoimmune diseases, allergies, and bacterial and viral infections. Studies in mice and observational research in patient groups have suggested that NKT cell-based therapies could be used to prevent or treat these diseases, yet the translation into clinical settings has been disappointing. We support the view that NKT cells have regulatory characteristics that could be exploited in clinical settings, but there are doubts about the natural roles of NKT cells in vivo and whether NKT cell defects are fundamental drivers of disease in humans. In this Opinion article, we discuss the uncertainties and opportunities regarding NKT cells in humans, and the potential for NKT cells to be manipulated to prevent or treat disease.
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The authors thank Prof. A. Baxter for helpful advice during the planning and preparation of this article.
The authors declare no competing financial interests.
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Berzins, S., Ritchie, D. Natural killer T cells: drivers or passengers in preventing human disease?. Nat Rev Immunol 14, 640–646 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1038/nri3725
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