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National Institute of Allergy and
Infectious Diseases (NIAID)

Wednesday, Feb. 19, 1997
Media Contact:
James Hadley
(301) 402-1663

NIAID/CIS/AAI Symposium on Contemporary Topics in Immunology

Four prominent scientists - including a Nobel Laureate - will present recent research findings that have far-reaching future implications for organ transplantation, autoimmune disease and screening potential drugs to restore immune function.

A symposium titled "Contemporary Topics in Immunology" is scheduled for Friday, February 21, from 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. in Room 135 of the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco as a part of the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology joint meeting. This symposium is co-sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), the Clinical Immunology Society (CIS) and the American Association of Immunology (AAI).

The panel will be moderated by Helen R. Quill, Ph.D., chief of the Basic Immunology Branch in NIAID's Division of Allergy, Immunology and Transplantation, Paul Kincade, Ph.D., chair of the AAI Program Committee and head of the immunology program at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation in Oklahoma City, and Arnold Levinson, Ph.D., chair of the CIS Program Committee and an associate professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.

The speakers, all current or former NIAID grantees, will present their research related to recognition and regulation in immune responses:

Peter Doherty, Ph.D., 1996 Nobel Laureate in medicine/physiology, is chairman of the Department of Immunology at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis. He will report on his work using a novel experimental system in mice to understand how the immune system normally controls infection by the gamma class of herpes viruses. This class includes a virus that has been implicated in the development of Kaposi's sarcoma in AIDS patients, and the Epstein Barr virus that is associated with lymphoma development in AIDS. His work provides an in vivo animal model system for screening potential therapies to restore immune control of such viruses in immunodeficient individuals.

Marian Neutra, Ph.D., professor of pediatrics at the Children's Hospital of Boston and the Harvard Medical School, is an expert on the specialized systems of immunity that control infections at mucosal surfaces of the body, such as the intestines, lungs and genitourinary tract. These major sites of exposure to environmental pathogens employ a well organized and varied set of mechanisms to ensure that protective immunity is induced. Dr. Neutra's work provides a basis for understanding how certain pathogens can evade the immune system at mucosal sites, and builds a foundation for developing more effective oral vaccines.

Richard Duke, Ph.D., assistant professor at the University of Colorado Cancer Center in Denver, has recently discovered a mechanism to explain how harmful, inflammatory immune responses are prevented in certain critical tissues of the body, such as the testes. He found that the surfaces of testes cells have a protein called Fas Ligand that binds to a complementary Fas protein found on immune cells. This Fas Ligand:Fas interaction results in the death of the activated immune cells and the prevention of immunologic injury to this vital organ. This basic observation has important implications for organ transplantation and autoimmune disease. Investigators may be able to introduce Fas Ligand into transplanted organs, or into local tissues undergoing autoimmune attack, and thereby eliminate the specific immune cells that cause rejection or disease without compromising the remaining immune system.

Ian Wilson, D. Phil., is a distinguished crystallographer and structural immunologist at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif. He recently determined the first atomic-level structure of an antigen receptor from a T lymphocyte at the three-dimensional level. He also defined important molecular parameters of how this receptor binds to its antigen to activate the T lymphocyte and induce protective immunity. This extraordinary achievement is a major milestone in immunology. It lays the foundation for understanding the general rules for T cell receptor:antigen interactions at the molecular level. Such high-resolution molecular detail will be invaluable in designing drugs to enhance immune responses and improve vaccine efficacy, or drugs to inhibit immune responses and prevent autoimmunity or transplant rejection.

NIAID is a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). NIAID conducts and supports research to prevent, diagnose and treat illnesses such as HIV disease and other sexually transmitted diseases, tuberculosis, asthma and allergies. NIH is an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

NIAID press releases, fact sheets and other materials are available on the Internet via the NIAID home page at

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