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U of I study shows benefits of hormone found in fat tissue
Date:2/26/2009

It's called the obesity paradox. Although obese people are more apt to suffer from inflammatory diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, and stroke, they are also more likely to survive a major attack caused by one of those conditions.

University of Illinois scientists Gregory Freund and Christina Sherry shed light on the reasons for this phenomenon in a study in this month's issue of Endocrinology.

"Fat is a very complex and active tissueit has important functions beyond providing energy and insulating us from the cold," said Freund, a professor in the U of I College of Medicine's Department of Pathology and a faculty member in the U of I Division of Nutritional Sciences.

"We now know that leptin, a hormone secreted by fat tissue, plays a key role in regulating the immune system. When we exposed mice to hypoxia (simulating an event, such as a heart attack, in which a part of the body is deprived of oxygen), leptin triggered the immune system to increase production of an anti-inflammatory molecule, interleukin-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1RA)," he said.

"And, when we gave non-obese mice leptin injections, they recovered three times faster. Leptin did not hasten recovery though in IL-1RA knockout mice," Sherry said. That earlier work was published in a recent issue of Brain, Behavior, and Immunity.

In the Endocrinology study, one group of mice was fed a high-fat diet for 12 weeks (Sherry described this group as being in a mildly obese, pre-diabetic state), while another group was fed a normal diet. The obese mice recovered from acute hypoxia five times faster than the mice fed normal diets.

In a second experiment, Freund and Sherry examined macrophages (or immune cells) that were resident in peritoneal fat tissue from both groups of mice. In mice fed the high-fat diet, there was a very significant increase in IL-1RA as compared to mice fed the normal diet (330 pg vs.15 pg).

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Contact: Phyllis Picklesimer
p-pickle@uiuc.edu
217-244-2827
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Source:Eurekalert

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