Neutralization Versus Reinforcement of Proinflammatory Cytokines to Arrest Autoimmunity in Type 1 Diabetes

Ayelet Kaminitz, Shifra Ash, Nadir Askenasy*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


As physiological pathways of intercellular communication produced by all cells, cytokines are involved in the pathogenesis of inflammatory insulitis as well as pivotal mediators of immune homeostasis. Proinflammatory cytokines including interleukins, interferons, transforming growth factor-β, tumor necrosis factor-α, and nitric oxide promote destructive insulitis in type 1 diabetes through amplification of the autoimmune reaction, direct toxicity to β-cells, and sensitization of islets to apoptosis. The concept that neutralization of cytokines may be of therapeutic benefit has been tested in few clinical studies, which fell short of inducing sustained remission or achieving disease arrest. Therapeutic failure is explained by the redundant activities of individual cytokines and their combinations, which are rather dispensable in the process of destructive insulitis because other cytolytic pathways efficiently compensate their deficiency. Proinflammatory cytokines are less redundant in regulation of the inflammatory reaction, displaying protective effects through restriction of effector cell activity, reinforcement of suppressor cell function, and participation in islet recovery from injury. Our analysis suggests that the role of cytokines in immune homeostasis overrides their contribution to β-cell death and may be used as potent immunomodulatory agents for therapeutic purposes rather than neutralized.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)460-472
Number of pages13
JournalClinical Reviews in Allergy and Immunology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Autoimmunity
  • Immune homeostasis
  • Inflammatory insulitis
  • Proinflammatory cytokines
  • Regulatory T cells
  • Type 1 diabetes
  • β-cell death


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