Immune privilege of stem cells.
Ichiryu N., Fairchild PJ.
Immune privilege provides protection to vital tissues or cells of the body when foreign antigens are introduced into these sites. The modern concept of relative immune privilege applies to a variety of tissues and anatomical structures, including the hair follicles and mucosal surfaces. Even sites of chronic inflammation and developing tumors may acquire immune privilege by recruiting immunoregulatory effector cells. Adult stem cells are no exception. For their importance and vitality, many adult stem cell populations are believed to be immune privileged. A preimplantation-stage embryo that derives from a totipotent stem cell (i.e., a fertilized oocyte) must be protected from maternal allo-rejection for successful implantation and development to occur. Embryonic stem cells, laboratory-derived cell lines of preimplantation blastocyst-origin, may, therefore, retain some of the immunological properties of the developing embryo. However, embryonic stem cells and their differentiated tissue derivatives transplanted into a recipient do not necessarily have an ability to subvert immune responses to the extent required to exploit their pluripotency for regenerative medicine. In this review, an extended definition of immune privilege is developed and the capacity of adult and embryonic stem cells to display both relative and acquired immune privilege is discussed. Furthermore, we explore how these intrinsic properties of stem cells may one day be harnessed for therapeutic gain.