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Intrigue at the Immune Synapse

Images of interacting immune cells reveal structured connections similar to the ones neurons use to communicate. Studying these synapses is providing new insights into how the cells form an information-sharing network to fight disease
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Comic-book fans know well that the most sought after editions are those in which a superhero appears for the first time. A comic book published in 1962 featuring the first appearance of Spider-Man, for example, recently sold at auction for $122,000. Sadly, publications representing the first appearance of an important scientific fact generally do not command similar prices, but to scientists these firsts are equally treasured.

Just such a moment occurred in 1995, when Abraham "Avi" Kupfer of the National Jewish Medical and Research Center in Denver stood before an unsuspecting group of a few hundred immunologists gathered for one of the prestigious Keystone symposia, named for a U.S. ski resort. Kupfer's presentation included the first three-dimensional images of immune cells interacting with one another. As the crowd watched in stunned silence, Kupfer showed them image after image of proteins organized into bull's-eye patterns at the area of contact between the cells.

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