News FocusImmunology

Take-Charge B Cells Create a Buzz

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Science  10 Jul 2009:
Vol. 325, Issue 5937, pp. 144-145
DOI: 10.1126/science.325_144

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In the past few years, researchers have discovered that certain B cells appear to share with regulatory T cells—fondly known as Tregs—the responsibility for keeping the immune system under control. Like Tregs, these B cells, which some experts have named regulatory B cells, or Bregs, release anti-inflammatory molecules and can forestall autoimmunity when infused into mice. Scientists studying Bregs had a hard time convincing some of their colleagues that such cells even exist. Now they have a persuasive case—at least in rodents. Yet much about these cells remains murky. Researchers are still wrestling with fundamental questions, such as which B cells are regulators, what triggers them to assume the role, and how they exert their influence on the immune system. Even the terminology is up in the air, as some immunologists bridle at the term "regulatory B cells," contending that it suggests a misleading equivalence with Tregs. The field also features its own version of the nature-vs.-nurture debate over the origin of regulatory B cells.