Irish and German scientists have revealed how particular immune cells in fat can work together to cause inflammation that will result in obesity.
There is a worldwide endemic in obesity in adults and children. Obese people are prone to develop diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. New treatments are needed to help deal with this issue.
In their study, the scientists recognized how “checkpoint proteins” and immune cells change inflammatory cells inside the fat tissue to cause obesity. In people with obesity (Body Mass Index BMI> 30 kg/m²) these alterations in checkpoint expression in the visceral fat was foretelling of the person’s weight. The scientists then demonstrated that change in the immune checkpoint proteins of mice on a Western “high fat” diet was linked to dramatic drop in the increase of obesity and diabetes.
The study, published in Science Translational Medicine, was led by Professor Padraic Fallon, Dr Christian Schwartz.
Prof. Fallon remarked: “This new process of checkpoint regulation of cells in visceral fat of obese individuals advances our understanding of how the immune system controls diet-induced weight gain that can lead to conditions such as obesity and type 2 diabetes. Our discovery has broader impacts on addressing how obesity influences co-morbidity with other diseases, as shown in the COVID-19 pandemic, where obese individuals that are infected with SARS-CoV-2 are more likely to develop severe disease that requires intensive care and also have an increased risk of mortality.”
Dr Schwartz stated: “In our study, we analyzed the function of immune checkpoints on specific cells and it is fascinating to see that a small change on one of many cell populations in the fat has such an impact on the outcome of the disease. Only through our basic research efforts using pre-clinical models, were we able to gain access to patients’ samples and link our findings to human disease. It will be interesting to investigate now how we can manipulate this checkpoint on specific cell populations of interest to help people with obesity.”
The study investigated inflammatory changes in patients with obesity, with or without type 2 diabetes.