Immune cells may help you fight obesity, claims a new study. While a healthy lifestyle and "good genes" are known to help prevent obesity, the study indicates that certain aspects of the immune system may also play an important role.
In the new study, scientists observed that mice lacking a particular type of immune cell gained excess weight and developed metabolic abnormalities even when they consumed a standard diet. In studying the immunological mechanisms that underlie metabolic control of fat tissue, Yair Reisner of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel and his colleagues discovered that mice that lacked certain dendritic immune cells that release a toxic molecule called perforin progressively gained weight and exhibited features of the metabolic syndrome.
The animals also had an altered collection of T immune cells residing in their fat tissue. Depleting these T cells prevented the mice that lacked the perforin-expressing dendritic cells from gaining weight or developing metabolic abnormalities.
Notably, mice lacking these regulatory dendritic cells were also found to be more prone to develop another form of autoimmunity with symptoms similar to those found in multiple sclerosis, Reisner added. These combined observations suggest that one function of these perforin-expressing dendritic cells is to remove potentially autoimmune T cells, and in so doing, decrease inflammation.
The findings indicate that perforin-expressing dendritic cells are critical for protecting against metabolic syndrome and autoimmunity, and shifting the abundance of these cells in relation to other immune cell populations may help prevent or treat such conditions. The new research is published in Immunity