Shaw and two colleagues, Paul Allen, PhD, the Robert L. Kroc Professor of Pathology and Immunology, and Michael Dustin, PhD, of New York University, created the immune synapse hypothesis, an influential explanation for how key immune cells become activated to fight invaders. According to the theory, the immune synapse is a specialized arrangement of receptors created by a T cell binding to its target that then triggers activation of the body’s defenses.
While investigating a protein important to this synapse, Shaw discovered that knocking the protein out in mice led to fatal kidney failure. With colleague Jeff Miner, PhD, Professor of Medicine and Cell Biology and Physiology, he showed that the protein, CD2AP, is vital for podocytes, an important cell type involved in the kidney’s work of filtering wastes from the blood.
In more recent studies, Shaw’s work in this area led him to become involved in efforts to identify genes linked to focal segmental glomerulosclerosis, the second most common cause of kidney failure after diabetes. His lab has identified two of the eight genes so far known to contribute to the disorder.
“I’m still active in a lot of basic research in immunology, but as I’ve grown older, I find myself thinking more and more about research problems with greater potential for immediate clinical relevance,” he says.
The featured article profiling Andrey Shaw, M.D., is published at Washington University’s Newsroom: Former music major studies immune system, kidney problems.