Immunol Cell Biol. 2004 Jun;82(3):315-22
Van Kaer L.
Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, TN 37232, USA.
CD1d-restricted natural killer T (NKT) cells are innate lymphocytes that play a regulatory role during an immune response.
The identification of alpha-galactosylceramide (alpha-GalCer), a marine sponge-derived glycosphingolipid, as a potent stimulator of NKT cells led many laboratories to investigate the effects of NKT cell activation on the regulation of immune responses.
These studies revealed that alpha-GalCer induces rapid and robust cytokine production by NKT cells, secondary activation of a variety of innate and adaptive immune cells, and modulation of Th cell responses.
Further, alpha-GalCer influences disease progression in a variety of experimental models of autoimmunity and inflammation in mice, including models for type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, inflammatory bowel disease, and atherosclerosis.
While these studies have raised significant enthusiasm for manipulation of NKT cells as a means of preventing autoimmunity in the clinical setting, there are significant concerns regarding the safety of repeated alpha-GalCer injections in human subjects.