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Obesity Weakens Immune Response
Date:12/12/2007

Study found fat mice had harder time fighting gum disease

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 12 (HealthDay News) -- Obese people find it harder to fight infections, and a weakened immune response may be to blame, suggests a new study from Boston University researchers.

In experiments with mice infected with the bacteria Porphyromonas gingivalis, obese mice had less ability to battle gum infection than their normal-weight counterparts, according to the report in this week's early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"For years, we have had difficulty understanding why obese people have difficulty clearing an infection," said lead researcher Dr. Salomon Amar, associate dean for research at the university's School of Dental Medicine.

"Now we understand that dysfunction in some of the mechanisms, as a result of the obesity, explain difficulty in clearing the infection and also the difficulty in wound healing," Amar said.

In the study, Amar's team tied silk threads infected with the bacteria around the molars of obese and normal-weight mice. They then compared the animals' responses to infection, by measuring both the amount of bone loss and the growth of the bacteria around their teeth.

The researchers found that the obese mice had a compromised immune response to the bacteria, which made the animals more susceptible to the infection.

Amar's group also looked at the animals' white blood cells, which are the main line of defense against infection. The white cells of obese mice had lower levels of an important signaling molecule, and some of the genes that fight inflammation were altered, the researchers found.

Why obesity has this effect isn't clear, but the researchers think it may involve a signaling pathway that controls a protein called NF-kB. Alterations in this protein may be caused by constant exposure to food, Amar explained. "At some point,
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