Richard Gallo and his colleagues from the University of California, San Diego Medical School found that apart from white blood cells, another component helps fight skin-invading pathogens: fat cells. The researchers injected mice with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and observed that the layer of fat around the injection site grew thicker because of increased numbers of adipocytes i.e. fat cells. Surprisingly, the MRSA infection also triggered the fat cells to produce an antibiotic peptide called cathelicidin. However, the researchers caution that the results do not imply that higher fat reserves ensure a better response to infections. In fact, the high levels of cathelicidin pumped out by the fat cells could lead to inflammatory diseases such as lupus and psoriasis. Thus, the study suggests that a healthy amount of fat is the key to a strong immune system.
Read more in The Scientist.