You are leaving Medscape Education
Cancel Continue
Log in to save activities Your saved activities will show here so that you can easily access them whenever you're ready. Log in here CME & Education Log in to keep track of your credits.

Table 1.  

A Comparison of Natural and Adaptive Regulatory T Cells

Box 1.  

Evidence of Operative Autoimmune-like Responses in Experimental and Human Atherosclerosis

Mechanisms of Disease: The Evolving Role of Regulatory T Cells in Atherosclerosis

Authors: Jacob George, MDFaculty and Disclosures


Summary and Introduction


Atherosclerosis and related complications still represent the major cause of morbidity and mortality in the western world. The mechanisms that govern the progression and destabilization of atheromatous lesions are multiple and complex. Despite their widespread use, lipid-lowering agents do not provide sufficient protection from future clinical cardiovascular-associated events. Interest in the role of immunity in atherosclerosis and support for this relationship has grown significantly over recent years. This paradigm, in which inflammation is an instrumental process in plaque development and rupture, is further supported by studies showing that immune subsets are operative in atherosclerosis. Regulatory T-cell subpopulations consist of lymphocytes—with several phenotypic markers—that share the ability to suppress, by various mechanisms, inflammatory responses. These regulatory T cells consist of subsets such as interleukin-10 secreting type I regulatory cells, type 3 effector T-helper cells that produce transforming growth factor-β, as well as adaptive and natural CD4+CD25+ regulatory T cells. In this Review, I focus on the direct and indirect evidence for the involvement of regulatory T cells in atherogenesis in experimental models and in humans. The growing knowledge of the role of regulatory T cells could result in the future development of novel therapeutic modalities to attenuate atherosclerosis and stabilize vulnerable plaques.


The immune system has an influential role in the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis.[1,2] Elucidation of this relationship has focused research on the potential discovery of markers with diagnostic and prognostic value. In this context, an intriguing possibility is the use of knowledge already gathered on the immune mechanisms governing plaque growth and destabilization to develop novel therapeutic strategies based on manipulation of the immune system.[3] Here I review T cells with regulatory properties and the basic milestones that led to an understanding of the importance of this T-cell subset in atherogenesis, and the potential roles this cell population could have in atherosclerosis.

  • Print