Alyssa Hasty, a professor at Cornelius Vanderbilt who studies the intersection of immunity and metabolism, has led a new study on the role immune cells play in obesity, weight loss, and weight regain.
This work, which has been published in Nature Communications, was conducted by Matthew Cottam, a recent Ph.D. graduate, and Heather Caslin, a postdoctoral fellow.
The Problem Under Investigation
Maintaining weight loss is a significant challenge. Most people regain their lost weight within a few years.
This process, known as weight cycling, can increase the risk of diabetes more than obesity itself.
While it’s known that immune cells in fat contribute to the risk of diseases related to obesity, the role these cells play in weight cycling is less understood.
A Unique Research Approach
The research team used a technique called single-cell sequencing. This method provides detailed information about individual cells, including their differences and specific functions.
They also developed an open-access website, MAIseq (Murine Adipose Immune sequencing), to share their data with other scientists.
The study involved mice that underwent weight loss and regain.
While weight loss improved blood glucose levels and reduced diabetes risk, the immune cells in the fat remained inflammatory, just as they do in obesity, and didn’t return to their healthy, lean state.
The team suspects these cells might “remember” obesity and contribute to the increased diabetes risk upon weight regain.
The Implications of the Research
In the short term, the team aims to identify specific cell types that increase risk in weight-cycling animals.
The long-term hope is to translate this to human research, offering a way to identify and treat people who experience obesity and weight cycling.
The Benefits of the Research
If researchers can target adipose immune cells using drugs, it might be possible to reduce diabetes risk after weight regain.
Additionally, the MAIseq website serves as a valuable resource for other researchers.
The Future of the Research
The team is now studying how weight cycling impacts different types of immune cells in fat tissue, and how these cells contribute to diabetes development associated with weight cycling.
They’re also investigating how weight cycling affects insulin signaling and production.
This ongoing work builds on their published findings, pushing the boundaries of our understanding of obesity and weight cycling.
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The study was published in Nature Communications.
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