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Keywords:

  • airway hyperresponsiveness;
  • allergy;
  • asthma;
  • regulatory T cells;
  • tolerance

Summary:  Allergic diseases and asthma are caused by exaggerated T-helper 2 (Th2)-biased immune responses in genetically susceptible individuals. Tolerance to allergens is a mechanism that normally prevents such responses, but the specific immunological events that mediate tolerance in this setting are poorly understood. A number of recent studies indicate that regulatory T cells (Tregs) play an important role in controlling such Th2-biased responses. Tregs involved in regulating allergy and asthma consist of a family of related types of T cells, including natural CD25+ Tregs as well as inducible forms of antigen-specific adaptive Tregs. Impaired expansion of natural and/or adaptive Tregs is hypothesized to lead to the development of allergy and asthma, and treatment to induce allergen-specific Tregs could provide curative therapies for these problems.