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See detailAzacytidine mitigates experimental sclerodermic graft-versus-host disease
Fransolet, Gilles ULg; Ehx, Grégory ULg; SOMJA, Joan ULg et al

in Journal of Hematology & Oncology (2016)

Background Previous studies have demonstrated that regulatory T cells (Tregs) play a protective role in the pathogenesis of chronic graft-versus-host disease (cGVHD). Tregs constitutively express the gene ... [more ▼]

Background Previous studies have demonstrated that regulatory T cells (Tregs) play a protective role in the pathogenesis of chronic graft-versus-host disease (cGVHD). Tregs constitutively express the gene of the transcription factor Foxp3 whose CNS2 region is heavily methylated in conventional CD4+ T cells (CD4+Tconvs) but demethylated in Tregs. Methods Here, we assessed the impact of azacytidine (AZA) on cGVHD in a well-established murine model of sclerodermic cGVHD (B10.D2 (H-2d) → BALB/cJ (H-2d)). Results The administration of AZA every 48 h from day +10 to day +30 at the dose of 0.5 mg/kg or 2 mg/kg mitigated chronic GVHD. Further, AZA-treated mice exhibited higher blood and thymic Treg frequencies on day +35, as well as higher demethylation levels of the Foxp3 enhancer and the IL-2 promoter in splenocytes at day +52. Interestingly, Tregs from AZA-treated mice expressed more frequently the activation marker CD103 on day +52. AZA-treated mice had also lower counts of CD4+Tconvs and CD8+ T cells from day +21 to day +35 after transplantation, as well as a lower proportion of CD4+Tconvs expressing the Ki67 antigen on day +21 demonstrating an anti-proliferating effect of the drug on T cells. Conclusions Our results indicate that AZA prevented sclerodermic cGVHD in a well-established murine model of cGVHD. These data might serve as the basis for a pilot study of AZA administration for cGVHD prevention in patients at high risk for cGVHD. [less ▲]

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See detailNovel approaches for preventing acute graftversus- host disease after allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation
SERVAIS, Sophie ULg; BEGUIN, Yves ULg; Delens, Loïc ULg et al

in Expert Opinion on Investigational Drugs (2016)

Introduction Allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (alloHSCT) offers potential curative treatment for a wide range of malignant and nonmalignant hematological disorders. However, its success ... [more ▼]

Introduction Allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (alloHSCT) offers potential curative treatment for a wide range of malignant and nonmalignant hematological disorders. However, its success may be limited by post-transplant acute graft-versus-host disease (aGVHD), a systemic syndrome in which donor’s immune cells attack healthy tissues in the immunocompromised host. aGVHD is one of the main causes of morbidity and mortality after alloHSCT. Despite standard GVHD prophylaxis regimens, aGVHD still develops in approximately 40–60% of alloHSCT recipients. Areas covered In this review, after a brief summary of current knowledge on the pathogenesis of aGVHD, the authors review the current combination of a calcineurin inhibitor with an antimetabolite with or without added anti-thymocyte globulin (ATG) and emerging strategies for GVHD prevention. Expert opinion A new understanding of the involvement of cytokines, intracellular signaling pathways, epigenetics and immunoregulatory cells in GVHD pathogenesis will lead to new standards for aGVHD prophylaxis allowing better prevention of severe aGVHD without affecting graft-versus-tumor effects. [less ▲]

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See detailAzacytidine Enhances Regulatory T-Cells In Vivo and Prevents Experimental Xenogeneic Graft-Versus-Host Disease
Ehx, Grégory ULg; Fransolet, Gilles ULg; de Leval, Laurence ULg et al

in Biology of Blood and Marrow Transplantation (2016, March), 22(3), 393

Background. The demethylating agent 5-azacytidine (AZA) has proven its efficacy as treatment for myelodysplastic syndrome and acute myeloid leukemia. In addition, AZA can demethylate FOXP3 intron 1 ... [more ▼]

Background. The demethylating agent 5-azacytidine (AZA) has proven its efficacy as treatment for myelodysplastic syndrome and acute myeloid leukemia. In addition, AZA can demethylate FOXP3 intron 1 (FOXP3i1) leading to the generation of regulatory T cells (Tregs). Objective. We investigated the impact of AZA on xenogeneic graft-versus-host disease (xGVHD) in a humanized murine model of transplantation, and described the impact of the drug on human T cells in vivo. Methods. In order to induce xGVHD, human peripheral blood mononuclear cells (huPBMC) were administered intravenously in NOD-scid IL-2Rγnull (NSG) mice. Results. AZA successfully improved both survival (p<0.0001) and xGVHD scores (p<0.0001). Further, AZA significantly decreased human T-cell proliferation as well as INF-γ and TNF-α serum levels, and reduced the expression of GRANZYME B and PERFORIN 1 by cytotoxic T cells. In addition, AZA administration significantly increased the function, proliferation and frequency of Tregs through demethylation of FOXP3i1 and higher secretion of IL-2 by conventional T cells due to IL2 gene promoter site 1 demethylation. Interestingly, among AZA-treated mice surviving the acute phase of xGVHD, there was an inverse correlation between the presence of Tregs and signs of chronic GVHD. Finally, Tregs harvested from the spleen of AZA-treated mice were suppressive and stable over time since they persisted at high frequency in secondary transplant experiments. Conclusion. These findings emphasize a potential role for AZA as prevention or treatment of GVHD and other autoimmune diseases. [less ▲]

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See detailSalt but not glucocorticoïds enhances Th17 differentiation from naïve T cells in vitro
Delens, Loïc ULg; SERVAIS, Sophie ULg; Vrancken, Louise et al

Poster (2016, January 29)

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See detailL'Azacytidine comme traitement de la maladie du greffon contre l'hôte de type chronique sclérodermique expérimentale.
Fransolet, Gilles ULg; Ehx, Grégory ULg; SOMJA, Joan ULg et al

Conference (2015, November 19)

Introduction: Graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) has remained a major complication of allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) for the last decades. Following unmanipulated peripheral-blood ... [more ▼]

Introduction: Graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) has remained a major complication of allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) for the last decades. Following unmanipulated peripheral-blood stem cell transplantation, 60% of the patients experience chronic GVHD while approximately 15% of them develop a sclerodermic form of chronic GVHD characterized by multiple organ fibrosis and loss of skin elasticity. Regulatory T cells (Tregs) play a pivotal protective role in the pathogenesis of chronic GVHD by inhibiting alloreactive conventional T cells (Tconvs). Several studies have shown that hypomethylating agents such as azacytidine (Aza) can demethylate the master transcription factor of Treg (Forkhead box protein 3 factor, FoxP3), thus promoting Treg differentiation from Tconvs. This work investigates the impact of Aza in a classical murine model of sclerodermic chronic GVHD (B10.D2  BALB/cJ). Methods: In vitro analyses have been performed to determine the impact of Aza on collagen production. NIH-3T3 fibroblastic cells were plated and stimulated with 50 ng of PDGF or 10 ng of TGF-beta. Cells were then cultured with various concentrations of Aza for 48 hours. After culture, cells were stained with Sirius Red before quantification of collagen amount by absorbance at 490 nm. For in vivo experiments, lethally irradiated (7 Gy) BALB/cJ recipient mice were injected with 107 bone marrow cells + 7.107splenocytes from B10.D2 donor mice to induce scl-cGVHD. Recipients were injected with either 0,5 or 2 mg/kg of Aza every 48 hours from day 10 to 30 following transplantation. GVHD was scored using a five criteria scale (weight loss, activity, fibrosis, hair loss and mice posture; 0-1-2 points/criteria). Mice were sacrificed at a score of 8/10 (or > 20% weight loss) or at day 52 after transplantation (end of experiment). Results: Concerning in vitro analyses, results suggest a decreased production of collagen at higher concentration of Aza with both stimulations (seen by a gradual diminution of absorbance). For in vivo experiments, mice treated with Aza 0.5 mg/kg (n = 14) or 2 mg/kg (n = 25) had significant lower clinical scores of GVHD compared to control ones (n = 23) after treatment. FACS analysis showed a higher proportion of Treg among CD4+ T cells in the blood of Aza 2 mg/kg mice than in control mice at day 35 following transplantation (P = 0.047), as well as a higher percentage of Tregs expressing the KI67 proliferative marker on the same time point (P = 0.0005). Finally, analyses of the cellular blood components with Cell-dyn demonstrated that Aza 2 mg/kg treated mice were significantly lymphopenic as compared to control mice at day 35 after transplantation (P = 0.05). Conclusion : Aza prevented sclerodermic GVHD in this classical murine model of chronic GVHD. [less ▲]

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See detailImmune Recovery after Allogeneic Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation following Flu-TBI versus TLI-ATG Conditioning
HANNON, Muriel ULg; BEGUIN, Yves ULg; Ehx, Grégory ULg et al

in Clinical Cancer Research : An Official Journal of the American Association for Cancer Research (2015), 21(14), 3131-9

Purpose: A conditioning regimen for allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT) combining total lymphoid irradiation (TLI) plus anti-thymocyte globulin (ATG) has been develop to induce graft ... [more ▼]

Purpose: A conditioning regimen for allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT) combining total lymphoid irradiation (TLI) plus anti-thymocyte globulin (ATG) has been develop to induce graft-versus-tumor effects without graft-versus-host disease (GVHD). Experimental Design: We compared immune recovery in 53 patients included in a phase II randomized study comparing nonmyeloablative HCT following either fludarabine plus 2 Gy total body irradiation (TBI arm, n=28) or 8 Gy TLI plus anti-thymocyte globulin (TLI arm, n=25). Results: In comparison to TBI patients, TLI patients had a similarly low 6-month incidence of grade II-IV acute GVHD, a lower incidence of moderate/severe chronic GVHD (P=0.02), a higher incidence of CMV reactivation (P<0.001), and a higher incidence of relapse (P=0.01). While recovery of total CD8+ T cells was similar in the two groups, with median CD8+ T cell counts reaching the normal values 40-60 days after allo-HCT, TLI patients had lower percentages of naïve CD8 T cells. Median CD4+ T cell counts did not reach the lower limit of normal values the first year after allo-HCT in the two groups. Further, CD4+ T cell counts were significantly lower in TLI than in TBI patients the first 6 months after transplantation. Interestingly, while median absolute regulatory T cell (Treg) counts were comparable in TBI and TLI patients, Treg/naïve CD4+ T cell ratios were significantly higher in TLI than in TBI patients the 2 first years after transplantation. Conclusions: Immune recovery differs substantially between these two conditioning regimens possibly explaining the different clinical outcomes observed (NCT00603954). [less ▲]

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See detailEtude de la reconstitution immunitaire après greffe de cellules souches hématopoïétiques : focus sur la fonction thymique et les lymphocytes T régulateurs
HANNON, Muriel ULg

Doctoral thesis (2015)

L’allogre e de cellules souches hématopoïétiques, après conditionnement myéloalbatif ou non, est devenue une option de choix dans le traitement des maladies hématologiques malignes ou génétiques ... [more ▼]

L’allogre e de cellules souches hématopoïétiques, après conditionnement myéloalbatif ou non, est devenue une option de choix dans le traitement des maladies hématologiques malignes ou génétiques. Malheureusement le succès de ce traitement se trouve trop souvent entaché par des complications majeures telles que les infections ou la maladie du greffon contre l’hôte (GVHD), dans laquelle les cellules du donneur attaquent l’organisme du receveur. La reconstitution d’un système immunitaire fonctionnel, notamment via le thymus, est une étape clef dans la résolution de ces deux complications et l’utilisation de lymphocytes T régulateurs semble très prometteuse dans la lutte contre la GVHD. Le présent travail vise donc à étudier la reconstitution du système immunitaire après allogreffe sous trois angles différents, en nous focalisant sur la fonction thymique et l’influence des lymphocytes T régulateurs (Treg). Dans la première partie, nous évaluons la reconstitution immunitaire à long terme après greffe non-myéloablative et montrons que la néo-génération de lymphocytes T par le thymus s’effectue à partir du jour 100 chez les patients de moins de 60 ans alors qu’au delà de cet âge, elle est quasiment absente. Nous établissons également que la GVHD chronique (cGVHD) sévère possède des effets extrêmement délétères sur le thymus. Étant donné l’impact de la cGVHD sur le thymus et la reconstitution immunitaire, nous avons voulu comparer l’impact, sur ces deux paramètres, d’un conditionnement nonmyéloalbatif censé réduire la GVHD et composé d’une irradiation lymphoïde totale et d’anticorps anti-thymocytes (TLI-ATG) par rapport au conditionnement classique consistant en une irradiation corporelle totale associée à de la fludarabine (TBI-Flu). Il ressort de cette étude que, bien que réduisant de manière significative l’incidence de cGVHD, le conditionnement TLI-ATG altère fortement la reconstitution du système immunitaire et impacte négativement le taux de rechute/progression chez les patients traités. Enfin, toujours dans le but de réduire le taux de GVHD post-greffe, nous avons choisi d’examiner l’impact des Treg comme traitement de la xGVHD. Dans ce but, nous montrons qu’une sélection de Treg humains, sur CliniMACS par déplétion CD8/19 et sélection CD25, fournit une population de cellules enrichies en Treg capable de retarder de manière statistiquement significative l’apparition d’une GVHD xénogénique induite par injection de PBMC humains (autologues aux Treg) dans un modèle pré-clinique chez la souris NSG. De plus, lorsque injectée sans les PBMC, cette population enrichie n’induit pas par elle-même de GHVD. [less ▲]

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See detailValidation of a multicolor staining to monitor phosphoSTAT5 levels in regulatory T-cell subsets
Ehx, Grégory ULg; Hannon, Muriel ULg; BEGUIN, Yves ULg et al

in Oncotarget (2015)

BACKGROUND: Regulatory T cells (Tregs) are key players in immune tolerance. They express the transcription factor FOXP3 and are dependent of the STAT5 signaling for their homeostasis. So far, the study of ... [more ▼]

BACKGROUND: Regulatory T cells (Tregs) are key players in immune tolerance. They express the transcription factor FOXP3 and are dependent of the STAT5 signaling for their homeostasis. So far, the study of phosphorylated epitopes by flow cytometry required treating the cells with methanol, which is harmful for several epitopes. METHODS: Here we assessed whether the PerFix EXPOSE reagent kit (PFE) (Beckman Coulter) allowed monitoring the phosphorylation level of STAT5 in Treg subpopulations together with complex immunophenotyping. Results observed with the PFE kit were compared to those observed without cell permeabilization for surface markers, with paraformaldehyde permeabilization for non-phosphorylated intracellular epitopes, and with methanol-based permeabilization for phosphoSTAT5 staining. RESULTS: In human PBMCs, the PFE kit allowed the detection of surface antigens, FOXP3, KI67 and phosphoSTAT5 in similar proportions to what was observed without permeabilization (for surface antigens), or with PFA or methanol permeabilizations for FOXP3/KI67 and phosphoSTAT5, respectively. Comparable observations were made with murine splenocytes. Further, the PFE kit allowed determining the response of different human and murine Treg subsets to IL-2. It also allowed demonstrating that human Treg subsets with the highest levels of phosphoSTAT5 had also the highest suppressive activity in vitro, and that anti-thymocyte glogulin (ATG) induced Treg independently of the STAT5 pathway, both in vitro and in vivo. CONCLUSIONS: We have validated a multicolor staining method that allows monitoring phosphoSTAT5 levels in Treg subsets. This staining could be useful to monitor responses of various Treg subsets to IL-2 therapy. [less ▲]

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See detailMonoclonal antibodies against GARP/TGF-b1 complexes inhibit the immunosuppressive activity of human regulatory T cells in vivo
Cuende, Julia; Liénart, Stéphanie; Dedobbeleer, Olivier et al

in Science Translational Medicine (2015), 7(284), 1-12

Regulatory T cells (Tregs) are essential to prevent autoimmunity, but excessive Treg function contributes to cancer progression by inhibiting antitumor immune responses. Tregs exert contact-dependent ... [more ▼]

Regulatory T cells (Tregs) are essential to prevent autoimmunity, but excessive Treg function contributes to cancer progression by inhibiting antitumor immune responses. Tregs exert contact-dependent inhibition of immune cells through the production of active transforming growth factor–b1 (TGF-b1). On the Treg cell surface, TGF-b1 is in an inactive form bound to membrane protein GARP and then activated by an unknown mechanism. We demonstrate that GARP is involved in this activation mechanism. Two anti-GARP monoclonal antibodies were generated that block the production of active TGF-b1 by human Tregs. These antibodies recognize a conformational epitope that requires amino acids GARP137–139 within GARP/TGF-b1 complexes. A variety of antibodies recognizing other GARP epitopes did not block active TGF-b1 production by Tregs. In a model of xenogeneic graft-versus-host disease in NSG mice, the blocking antibodies inhibited the immunosuppressive activity of human Tregs. These antibodies may serve as therapeutic tools to boost immune responses to infection or cancer via a mechanism of action distinct from that of currently available immunomodulatory antibodies. Used alone or in combination with tumor vaccines or antibodies targeting the CTLA4 or PD1/PD-L1 pathways, blocking anti-GARP antibodies may improve the efficiency of cancer immunotherapy. [less ▲]

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See detailImpact of Pre-Transplant Anti-T Cell Globulin (ATG) on Immune Recovery after Myeloablative Allogeneic Peripheral Blood Stem Cell Transplantation.
SERVAIS, Sophie ULg; Menten-Dedoyart, Catherine; Beguin, Yves ULg et al

in PloS one (2015), 10(6), 0130026

BACKGROUND: Pre-transplant infusion of rabbit anti-T cell globulin (ATG) is increasingly used as prevention of graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) after allogeneic peripheral blood stem cell transplantation ... [more ▼]

BACKGROUND: Pre-transplant infusion of rabbit anti-T cell globulin (ATG) is increasingly used as prevention of graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) after allogeneic peripheral blood stem cell transplantation (PBSCT). However, the precise impact of pre-transplant ATG on immune recovery after PBSCT is still poorly documented. METHODS: In the current study, we compared immune recovery after myeloablative PBSCT in 65 patients who either received (n = 37) or did not (n = 28) pre-transplant ATG-Fresenius (ATG-F). Detailed phenotypes of circulating T, B, natural killer (NK) and invariant NKT (iNKT) cells were analyzed by multicolor flow cytometry at serial time-points from day 40 to day 365 after transplantation. Thymic function was also assessed by sjTREC quantification. Serious infectious events were collected up to 2 years post-transplantation. RESULTS: Pre-transplant ATG-F had a prolonged (for at least up to 1-year) and selective negative impact on the T-cell pool, while it did not impair the recovery of B, NK nor iNKT cells. Among T cells, ATG-F selectively compromised the recovery of naive CD4+, central memory CD4+ and naive CD8+ cells, while it spared effector memory T and regulatory T cells. Levels of sjTRECs were similar in both cohorts at 1-year after PBSCT, suggesting that ATG-F unlikely impaired thymopoiesis at long-term after PBSCT. Finally, the incidence and rate of serious infections were similar in both groups, while ATG-F patients had a lower incidence of grade II-IV acute graft-versus-host disease. CONCLUSIONS: Pre-transplant ATG-F induces long-lasting modulation of the circulating T-cell pool after myeloablative PBSCT, that may participate in preventing graft-versus-host disease without deeply compromising anti-pathogen defenses. [less ▲]

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See detailInfusion of clinical-grade enriched regulatory T cells delays experimental xenogeneic graft-versus-host disease
Hannon, Muriel ULg; LECHANTEUR, Chantal ULg; Lucas, Sophie et al

in Transfusion (2014), 54(February), 353-363

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See detailImmunomodulatory effects of Rapamycin in xenogeneic GVHD
Ehx, Grégory ULg; HANNON, Muriel ULg; DUBOIS, Sophie ULg et al

Poster (2014, January 27)

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See detailEstablishment of a murine graft-versus-myeloma model using allogeneic stem cell transplantation
Binsfeld, Marilène ULg; Beguin, Yves ULg; Belle, Ludovic ULg et al

in PLoS ONE (2014), (doi:10.1371), 113764

Background: Multiple myeloma (MM) is a malignant plasma cell disorder with poor long-term survival and high recurrence rates. Despite evidence of graft-versus-myeloma (GvM) effects, the use of allogeneic ... [more ▼]

Background: Multiple myeloma (MM) is a malignant plasma cell disorder with poor long-term survival and high recurrence rates. Despite evidence of graft-versus-myeloma (GvM) effects, the use of allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (allo-SCT) has remained controversial in MM. In the current study, we investigated the anti-myeloma effects of allo-SCT from B10.D2 mice into MHC-matched myeloma-bearing Balb/cJ mice (previously injected with the MOPC315.BM myeloma cell line), based on a chronic graft-versus-host disease (GvHD) murine model. Methods and results: Balb/cJ mice were injected intravenously with luciferase-transfected MOPC315.BM cells, and received 30 days later an allogeneic (B10.D2 donor) or autologous (Balb/cJ donor) transplantation by intravenous administration of bone marrow cells and splenocytes. We observed a graft-versus-myeloma effect in 94% of the allogeneic transplanted mice, as luciferase signal completely disappeared after transplantation, whereas all the autologous transplanted mice showed myeloma evolution. Lower serum paraprotein levels and myeloma infiltration in bone marrow and spleen in the allogeneic setting confirmed the observed GvM effect, while allogeneic mice also displayed chronic GvHD symptoms. In vivo and in vitro data suggest the involvement of effector memory CD4 and CD8 T cells in the GvM effect. The essential role of CD8 T cells was demonstrated in vivo where CD8 T-cell depletion of the graft resulted in reduced GvM effects. Finally, TCR V spectratyping analysis identified V families within CD4 and CD8 T cells which were associated with both GvM effects and GVHD, whereas other V families within CD4 T cells were associated exclusively with either GvM or GvHD responses. Conclusions: We successfully established an immunocompetent murine model of graft-versus-myeloma. This is the first immunocompetent murine model which is based on a MM model closely resembling human MM disease (bone marrow tropism, ...) and using allo-SCT after the disease establishment, as a curative treatment [less ▲]

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See detailThinking out of the box - New approaches to controlling GVHD
Baron, Frédéric ULg; Humblet-Baron, Stéphanie; Ehx, Grégory ULg et al

in Current Hematologic Malignancy Reports (2014), 9

Graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) remains a major limitation of allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation (allo-HCT). Despite major advances in the understanding of GVHD pathogenesis, standard GVHD ... [more ▼]

Graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) remains a major limitation of allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation (allo-HCT). Despite major advances in the understanding of GVHD pathogenesis, standard GVHD prophylaxis regimens continue to bebased on the combination of a calcineurin inhibitor with an antimetabolite, while first line treatmentsstill relies on high-dose corticosteroids. Further, no second line treatment has emerged thus far in acute or chronic GVHD patients who failed on corticosteroids. After briefly reviewing current standards of GVHD prevention and treatment, this article will discuss recent approaches that might change GVHD prophylaxis / treatment in the next decades, with a special focus on recently developed immunoregulatory strategies based on infusion of mesenchymal stromal or regulatory T-cells, or on injection of lowdose interleukin-2. [less ▲]

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