Researchers at the Board of Governors' Gene Therapeutics Research Institute at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center have confirmed the existence of anatomical structures that channel information exchanges between a T cell and its target, an antigen-presenting brain cell, in laboratory rats. This immunologic synapse, or junction where signals are shuttled between two immune cells, has previously only been observed in cell cultures, in part because of the limitations of imaging and the rapid, touch-and-go nature of the communication itself.
According to the researchers, this work should settle the controversy over the existence and functional significance of mature immunological synapses in vivo during antiviral immune responses. The findings will allow further experimental exploration of immunological synaptic function during normal and pathological immune responses in vivo.
The full study can be accessed at www.jem.org.
The mechanism of how immunological synapses "speak" to each other in vivo has not been observed prior to this research. Although formal proof of this awaits the development of drugs or mutations that interfere selectively with synapse formation, the confirmation of these cellular structures increases the understanding of the immune system and paves the way for further research on the body's immune response system. New knowledge in this area may ultimately improve treatment for immune disorders such as MS, cancer, and AIDS.
Pedro Lowenstein, M.D., Ph.D., co-director, Board of Governors' Gene Therapy Research Institute, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and principal investigator of this study, is available for interviews.
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The Board of Governors' Gene Therapeutic Research Institute at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center is a world-renowned translational research program. Established in 2000, the Institute is engaged in state-of-the-art technologies to develop genetic and stem cell-based therapies for the treatment of life-threatening disorders such as cancers, chronic neurodegenerative diseases and autoimmune disorders. It includes more than 30 scientists and physicians devoted to bringing these new therapeutic approaches to the clinical arena. Additional information is available at www.cedars-sinai.edu/gtri.