Regulatory T-cells (Tregs) are key players in the maintenance of immune homeostasis by preventing immune responses to self-antigens. Defects in Treg frequency and/or function result in overwhelming CD4 and CD8 T cell immune responses participating in the autoimmune attack. Perpetuation of autoimmune damage is also favored by Treg predisposition to acquire effector cell features upon exposure to a proinflammatory challenge. Treg impairment plays a permissive role in the initiation and perpetuation of autoimmune liver diseases, namely autoimmune hepatitis, primary biliary cholangitis and primary sclerosing cholangitis. In this Review, we outline studies reporting the role of Treg impairment in the pathogenesis of these conditions and discuss methods to restore Treg number and function either by generation/expansion in the test tube or through in vivo expansion upon administration of low dose IL-2. Challenges and caveats of these potential therapeutic strategies are also reviewed and discussed.
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