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.