Latest News » New study highlights relationship between immune system and obesity

Properly functioning immune system cells could play a part in promoting calorie-burning fat cells, according to new research.

Properly functioning immune system cells could play a part in promoting calorie-burning fat cells, according to new research.

Malfunctioning immune system cells may be to blame for obesity and uncontrollable weight gain in some individuals, according to a new study.

A team of scientists led by senior researcher David Artis sought to determine whether immune system cells known as ILC2s play the same role in human obesity as they do in mice obesity — namely, that properly functioning ILC2s can help to ward off excessive weight gain at a cellular level. The team's findings, published in the online December 22 edition of Nature, did indeed point to a correlation between the two.

According to HealthDay News, the researchers found that ILC2s are typically more common in the belly fat of thin adult humans and less common in the belly fat of obese adults. Their mice experiments pointed further to how ILC2s actually help to promote "beige" fat cell development, which aid in burning off calories — though whether this same phenomenon occurs in humans as well remains to be seen.

While serving an anti-obesity function may sound like an unusual feature for the immune system, which is typically regarded to primarily fight off germs and infections, "it makes sense in evolutionary terms," according to Artis.

"You can imagine [the immune system] basically telling the fat tissue, 'We're going to be malnourished for a while. Let's adapt,'" Artis told the news source, adding that the communication between immune system cells and fat issue is the body's way of adjusting its metabolism in "times of adversity."

While these findings are still preliminary and more research needs to be done on how exactly promoting immune system function can double to combat obesity as well, it does represent a promising new development in the fight against a serious health condition that is becoming increasingly prominent in the United States.

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