Geometry is key to T-cell triggering
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IMAGE: Composite of a scanning electron micrograph and immunofluorescence image showing a T cell (SEM) on an array of clusters of T cell receptor ligands, fluorescently labeled red. The green… view more 

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Credit: Haogang Cai/Columbia Engineering

New York, NY–April 30, 2018–T cells protect the body from foreign substances (known as antigens) and are an essential component of the body’s immune system. New immunotherapies that use a patient’s own T cells to treat disease have already proven strikingly effective in treating some cancers, and cancer researchers around the world are racing to improve these treatments and apply them more broadly.

The engagement between T cells and antigens sets off the immune response, with cascade of signals within the T cell. The process involves an intricate choreography of receptor proteins and their ligands at or near the surface of the T cell and the antigen-presenting cell (APC).

A team of researchers, led by Columbia Engineering Applied Physicist Shalom J. Wind and Oxford University and NYU-Langone Medical Center biologist Michael L. Dustin, has revealed the geometric underpinnings of T-cell triggering through the precise engineering of T-cell receptor geometry in all three dimensions. They used nanofabrication to create a biomimetic surface that simulates the key features of the

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