1. In your opinion, what has been the most important advancement in the field in the last five years?
Tregs have traditionally been studied for their role as guardians against autoimmunity. In addition, the role of Tregs in a variety of bacterial and viral infections, both as mitigators of disease and as suppressors of effective immune responses, is increasingly recognized. However, the past five years has seen a growing appreciation for the effect of the microbiota, both skin and gut, on the development and maintenance of Tregs. These findings have helped underscore the enormous impact of the composition of natural flora on health and disease.
2. Where is Treg research heading?
Treg-eliciting vaccines have remained elusive. Autoimmune conditions and some infections that have been shown to be dependent on the mitigating effects of Tregs would benefit from the development of a method to elicit targeted antigen-specific Tregs. For several years, the vaccine field has been steadily moving away from empirical approaches and towards more rational design methodology. With a growing body of data on the development and activation of Tregs, I hope that approaches that are being applied to the design of other T cell-mediated vaccines will be used to elicit antigen-specific Tregs.
3. What are the technical challenges currently facing the Treg field?
Several different origins have been described for Tregs. Naturally-derived Tregs (nTregs) also known as thymically-derived Tregs (tTregs), develop in the thymus as an outgrowth of the negative selection process. Peripherally-derived Tregs (pTregs) arise in the periphery from CD4 +FoxP3- T cells in response to foreign antigens that are ingested or that are part of the natural flora of the gut. Finally, induced Tregs (iTregs) are those Tregs that arise in the presence of transforming growth factor β (TGFβ), generally in culture conditions. Although several markers have been proposed to identify each of these populations, I hope that more definitive and consistent markers will be elucidated in the coming years.
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