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
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.