How the body uses fat to fight infection

Published by  News Archive

On 8th Dec 2021

A field of fat cells

New research from the University of East Anglia and Quadram Institute reveals how our immune cells use the body’s fat stores to fight infection.

The research, published today in the journal Nature Communications, could help develop new approaches to treating people with bacterial infections.

The research team say their work could one day help treat infections in vulnerable and older people.

The team studied Salmonella - a bacterial infection which causes diarrhoea, vomiting, abdominal pain, fever and sepsis.

The UEA team collaborated with the Quadram Institute and colleagues at the Earlham Institute, to track fatty acid movement and consumption in live stem cells.

They went on to analyse the immune response to Salmonella bacterial infection, by analysing liver damage.

They uncovered how blood stem cells respond to infection, by acquiring high energy fatty acids from the body’s fat stores.

The team found that in the bone marrow where blood stem cells are resident, infection signals drive adipocytes to release their fat stores as fatty acids into the blood. 

And they identified that these high energy fatty acids are then taken up by blood stem cells, effectively feeding the stem cells and enabling them to make millions of Salmonella-fighting white blood cells.

The researchers also identified the mechanism by which the fatty acids are transferred and discusses the potential impact this new knowledge could have on future treatment of infection.

Dr Stuart Rushworth, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, said: “Our results provide insight into how the blood and immune system is able to respond to infection.

“Fighting infection takes a lot of energy and fat stores are huge energy deposits, which provide the fuel for the blood stem cells to power up the immune response.  

“Working out the mechanism through which this ‘fuel boost’ works gives us new ideas on how to strengthen the bodies fight against infection in the future.”

Dr Naiara Beraza, from the Quadram institute, said: “Our results allow us to understand how our immune system uses fat to fuel the response to infection. Defining these mechanisms will enable us to develop new therapeutics to treat infections in the liver.”

Dr Rushworth said: “In the future, I hope our findings will help improve treatment for vulnerable and older people with infections, by strengthening their immune response.

“With antibiotic resistance being such a present and widespread challenge for society, there is an urgent need to explore novel ways like this to help the body’s immune system to fight infection,” he added.

The study was led by UEA and QI in collaboration with the Earlham Institute. It was funded by the Wellcome Trust and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), with support from the UK Medical Research Council.

‘Free fatty-acid transport via CD36 drives β-oxidation-mediated hematopoietic stem cell response to infection’ is published in the journal Nature Communications on December 8, 2021.

Latest News

 
Aerial view from drone of a large flood affecting many houses in a town.
29 Jun 2022

Limiting global warming to 1.5°C would reduce risks to humans by up to 85%

New UEA research quantifies the benefits of limiting global warming to 1.5°C and identifies the hotspot regions for climate change risk in the future.

Read more >
 
A woman holds a drawing of a human gut against her stomach.
28 Jun 2022

Maternal microbiome promotes healthy development of the baby

A mother’s gut microbes can help in the development of the placenta, and the healthy growth of the baby - according to new UEA research.

Read more >
 
A woman entering an MRI scanner
27 Jun 2022

Cutting-edge 4D flow MRI scans could revolutionise blood flow assessment in the heart

UEA researchers have developed cutting-edge imaging technology to help doctors better diagnose and monitor patients with heart failure.

Read more >
 
A Turtle Dove on a branch
25 Jun 2022

Built infrastructure, hunting and climate change linked to huge migratory bird declines

Migratory birds are declining globally because of the way that humans have modified the landscape over recent decades, UEA research shows.

Read more >
Are you searching for something?
 
A Turtle Dove on a branch
25 Jun 2022

Built infrastructure, hunting and climate change linked to huge migratory bird declines

Migratory birds are declining globally because of the way that humans have modified the landscape over recent decades, UEA research shows.

Read more >
 
An infant taking part in a research project at UEA.
24 Jun 2022

Babies and over 65s needed for UEA psychology research

From the very young to the somewhat older, psychology researchers at UEA are looking for participants to help with two studies.

Read more >
 
Destruction of forest
23 Jun 2022

Loss of nature is pushing nations toward sovereign credit downgrades and ‘bankruptcy’

The world's first biodiversity-adjusted sovereign credit ratings show how ecological destruction affects public finances – driving downgrades, debt crises and...

Read more >
 
Yelena Moskovich, Scarlett Brade, Charlie Higson
22 Jun 2022

Soviet-Ukrainian novelist and Fast Show comedian take centre stage at Noirwich Crime Writing Festival

The ninth Noirwich Crime Writing Festival returns in September, with a special line-up announced today (Wednesday 22 June) featuring an award-winning...

Read more >
 
An older woman tries to get to sleep in bed.
22 Jun 2022

How sleep could help stroke patients make a better recovery

Researchers at UEA are launching a new study to see how sleep can help stroke recovery.

Read more >
 
17 Jun 2022

New report highlights the need for investment in NHS staff wellbeing

Poor mental health and wellbeing costs the NHS an estimated £12.1 billion a year, new research suggests.

Read more >
 
Lab research
15 Jun 2022

UEA receives funding boost for research projects

Projects which support early-stage translation of research to real impacts will benefit from new funding awards. 

Read more >