Fat cells may actually not be so bad

Posted: January 3, 2015 at 2:48 am

January 2, 2015

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Chuck Bednar for redOrbit.com Your Universe Online

Fat cells located beneath a persons skin could help protect them from bacterial infections, according to a new study published Thursday in the journal Science.

In the study, Dr. Richard Gallo, a professor and chief of dermatology at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, and his colleagues report that they had discovered a previously unknown function of these dermal fat cells, also known as adipocytes: they produce antimicrobial peptides that help combat bacteria and other types of pathogens.

It was thought that once the skin barrier was broken, it was entirely the responsibility of circulating (white) blood cells like neutrophils and macrophages to protect us from getting sepsis, explained Gallo. But it takes time to recruit these cells (to the wound site).

We now show that the fat stem cells are responsible for protecting us. That was totally unexpected, he added. It was not known that adipocytes could produce antimicrobials, let alone that they make almost as much as a neutrophil.

A persons body launches a complex, multi-tiered defense against microbial infection, the authors said. Several different types of cells are involved, and the process ends with the arrival of specialized cells known as neutrophils and monocytes that target and destroy pathogens.

Before any of that can happen, a more immediate response is required one that can counter the ability of pathogens to rapidly increase their numbers, however. That task is typically performed by epithelial cells, mast cells and leukocytes residing in the area of infection.

Previous research conducted in Gallos lab detected Staphylococcus aureus, a common type of bacteria and a major source of skin infection on humans, in the fat layer of the skin. Antibiotic-resistant forms of this bacterial have become a significant health issue throughout the world, so the study authors looked to see what role adipocytes played in preventing skin infections.

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Fat cells may actually not be so bad

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