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October Report: Immune System Protein And The Fight Against Obesity

By Rob Poulos...

According to a report published in Immunity, researchers at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland have found a new kind of anti-tumor immune cell that can help fight obesity and the metabolic syndrome that causes diabetes. The report, written by Marie Curie Fellow and Lydia Lynch from Trinity College, along with experts from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre and St Vincent’s University Hospital, states that invariant natural killer T-cells (iNKT), immune cells that fight malignancy, disappear when humans become overweight, but can be restored once the weight is lost.

Their study showed that treatments that jump-start iNKT cells can help keep weight off and control diabetes and other metabolic diseases. The study concluded that iNKT cells, which were previously thought to be found infrequently in humans, are found in great numbers in the omental fat in humans. The study is further proof that immune system protein can help in the fight against obesity.

According to Dr. Lynch, when mice were studied the team found a large population of iNKT cells in their fat tissue. They were able to identify a root for these cells in the regulation of body weight and the metabolic state by regulating inflammation in adipose tissue. To this finding, they discovered that a lipid named alpha-galactoslceramide (aGC) can greatly impact weight loss, fatty liver disease, metabolism, and can reverse diabetes by strengthening damaged cells.

The human study has been ongoing since 2007, when Dr. Lynch teamed with Professor Donald O’Shea at the Obesity Clinic at St. Vincent’s University in Dublin.

When blood was drawn from each patient, it was revealed that the iNKT and NKT cells were lowered in the blood of obese people, while patients who had dropped weight after bariatric surgery had an increase in iNKT cells, bringing them to roughly normal levels. The same tests were also conducted on a number of animals in order to determine if their theories about iNKT effecting fat tissue regulation were correct.

Separate studies by Professor Mark Exley and Cliona O’Farrelly had shown that a large number of iNKT cells were found in both human and mouse liver tissues. Dr. Lynch and here colleagues wanted to prove that mice also harbored these same cells in fat. When their study found a great deal of iNKT cells in the mice, the team put the rodents on a diet rich in high-fat and analyzed the results.

“We found loads of them”, said Dr. Lynch. “We actually reversed the diabetes, and even though the mice continued to eat a high fat diet, they lost one to two grams of weight (normal weight being 20 to 25 grams).” In addition, Dr. Lynch found that the mice exhibited a host of positive features including improved insulin sensitivity, lower triglycerides and leptin, and shrunken adipocytes. Added Dr. Lynch: “Similar to the human subjects we had previously studied, the animals lost their iNKT cells when they became obese. Once we took them off this diet and put them back on a normal standard-fat diet, they lost the weight – and their iNKT cells increased.”

Next, the team looked at the root of iNKT cells by analyzing two different kinds of mice (and one group of control mice), both of which had a lack of iNKT cells, on a high-fat diet. The authors removed the iNKT in the normal mice and put them into the NKT-deficient mice. To determine whether the leftover iNKT cells could be activated to benefit metabolism, the experts tested the aCG on the cells, which showed a significant drop in fatty liver disease and metabolism, dramatic weight loss and diabetes reversal.

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