The inflammation of fat tissue is part of a series of events caused by obesity which lead to the development of type 2 diabetes and other chronic diseases. It was previously thought that adipocytes (fat cells) were only capable of storing and releasing energy but it now appears that when they are ‘overfed’ they signal as if being attacked, triggering an immune response which leads to inflammation.
High calorie diets cause the fat cells to make ‘major histocompatibility complex 2’ which is a groups of proteins that are only usually expressed to help the immune system fight off viruses and bacteria. In effect, the fat cells issue false distress signals as if they are infected which leads to inflammation. Immune responses can be more harmful than helpful, and this is the case when an immune response is falsely signalled causing the body to respond rapidly as if the body were under serious threat.
Scientists believe that they can target this fat cell behaviour and create a drug which will be able to alleviate the inflammation of fat cells and the negative consequences associated with obesity, leaving time to treat the condition itself before the individual’s health deteriorates.
Deng T, Lyon CJ, Minze LJ, Lin J, Zou J, Liu JZ, Ren Y, Yin Z, Hamilton DJ, Reardon PR, Sherman V, Wang HY, Philips KJ, Webb P, Wong STC, Wang RF, Hsueh WA, Class 2 Major Histocompatibility Complex Plays An Essential Role In Obesity-Induced Adipose Inflammation, Cell Metabolism, 2013, 17(3): 411-22.