AUG 10, 2021 7:00 AM PDT

An Immune Molecule Helps Create 'Good' Fat

WRITTEN BY: Tara Fernandez

Not all fat is ‘bad’—there’s white fat that builds up when excess calories are consumed. But, there’s also brown fat, a type of adipose tissue that helps you stay warm in cold temperatures. Newborns are born with brown fat behind their shoulder blades, which acts as an internal heater. This fat is gradually lost as they get older.

In between these two classes of fat tissue is so-called beige fat: tissue rich in mitochondria, energy-generating organelles that use fat, sugar, and oxygen to create heat.

Scientists have identified a chemical signal generated by the immune system that revs up the production of beige fat, making it a promising therapeutic target against obesity and metabolic conditions. 

Over 42 percent of Americans are obese, a disease that costs the United States an estimated $147 billion annually. Obesity is linked to heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and cancer, forming some of the top causes of preventable, premature death.

In their study, the researchers used a rodent experimental model to demonstrate how elevated levels of a cytokine known as interleukin-25 (IL-25) could boost beige fat levels. The immune molecule mimicked the effects of cold exposure and hormones known to trigger beige fat production.

IL-25 was found to convert white fat to beige fat by activating immune cells called macrophages. In turn, these cells stimulate neurons in the fat tissue that drive an increase in norepinephrine, a neurotransmitter known to encourage the development of beige fat.

In the study, the researchers also demonstrate the therapeutic potential of IL-25 for treating obesity. A cohort of mice on a high-fat diet was given IL-25 treatments with stunning effects: the cytokine stopped the animals from becoming obese. It also reduced their risk of developing insulin resistance, a common syndrome associated with obesity.

 

Source: PLOS Biology 

About the Author
  • Tara Fernandez has a PhD in Cell Biology and has spent over a decade uncovering the molecular basis of diseases ranging from skin cancer to obesity and diabetes. She currently works on developing and marketing disruptive new technologies in the biotechnology industry. Her areas of interest include innovation in molecular diagnostics, cell therapies, and immunology. She actively participates in various science communication and public engagement initiatives to promote STEM in the community.
You May Also Like
JUL 18, 2021
Drug Discovery & Development
COVID-19 Antibiotic No More Effective than Placebo
JUL 18, 2021
COVID-19 Antibiotic No More Effective than Placebo
Azithromycin, a broad-spectrum antibiotic commonly used to prevent symptoms of COVID-19 in non-hospitalized patients, do ...
JUL 19, 2021
Health & Medicine
The Pandemic and Fewer Asthma Attacks?
JUL 19, 2021
The Pandemic and Fewer Asthma Attacks?
Asthma sufferers: Quarantine during the pandemic may have not only helped you avoid COVID but more asthma attacks as wel ...
JUL 29, 2021
Immunology
Scientists Discover Bacterial Life on Human Fetuses
JUL 29, 2021
Scientists Discover Bacterial Life on Human Fetuses
A developing fetus in its second trimester of life is changing at an extraordinarily rapid pace––bones are b ...
AUG 12, 2021
Immunology
Anticoagulants Target a Weak Spot in Coronavirus Variants
AUG 12, 2021
Anticoagulants Target a Weak Spot in Coronavirus Variants
Australian researchers have found a new molecular binding site on the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, a discovery that ...
AUG 19, 2021
Immunology
Insights Into the Interplay Between COVID and the Nasal Microbiome
AUG 19, 2021
Insights Into the Interplay Between COVID and the Nasal Microbiome
There is a spectrum of COVID symptom severity: some recover after experiencing nothing more than a mild cough, while oth ...
SEP 14, 2021
Immunology
The Spleen Creates Long-Lasting Protection Against the Flu Virus
SEP 14, 2021
The Spleen Creates Long-Lasting Protection Against the Flu Virus
You share an elevator with an individual who is coughing and sneezing, only to find yourself feeling unwell a few days l ...
Loading Comments...