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Animal models of allergen-induced tolerance in asthma: are T-regulatory-1 cells (Tr-1) the solution for T-helper-2 cells (Th-2) in asthma?


Correspondence: K. G. Tournoy, Department of Respiratory Diseases, Ghent University Hospital, Building 7K12 I.E., De Pintelaan 185, 9000 Ghent, Belgium.


Non-specific anti-inflammatory medication is actually the treatment of choice for controlling the T-helper type 2 (Th-2) cell-driven airway inflammation in asthma. The induction of counterbalancing Th-1 cell clones, long considered a promising approach for immunotherapy, has failed to fulfil its promise because of potentially detrimental side-effects. This is therefore probably not a valid option for the treatment of asthma.With the increasing awareness that active immune mechanisms exist to control inflammatory responses, interest rises to investigate whether these can be exploited to control allergen-induced airway disease. The induction of antigen-specific T cells with suppressive characteristics (regulatory T cells) is therefore a potentially interesting approach. These regulatory T cells mediate tolerance in healthy, non-atopic individuals and have the potential of becoming an effective means of preventing allergen-induced airway inflammation and possibly of suppressing ongoing allergic immune responses. Here we review the available knowledge about allergen-induced suppressive immunity obtained from animal models taking into account the different developmental stages of allergic airway disease.