How the body uses fat to fight infection

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

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

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

The team looked at salmonella – a bacterial infection that causes diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, fever, and sepsis.

The UEA team worked with the Quadram Institute and colleagues at the Earlham Institute to track the movement and consumption of fatty acids in living stem cells.

They then analyzed the immune response to bacterial Salmonella infection by analyzing liver damage.

They discovered how blood stem cells respond to infection by absorbing high-energy fatty acids from the body’s fat stores.

The team found that in the bone marrow, where blood stem cells are located, infection signals cause fat cells to release their fat reserves into the blood as fatty acids.

And they found that these high-energy fatty acids are then taken in by blood stem cells, which effectively nourish stem cells and enable them to make millions of salmonella-fighting white blood cells.

The researchers also identified the mechanism by which the fatty acids are transferred and discussed the possible implications of this new knowledge for future treatment of infections.

Dr. Stuart Rushworth of the UEA’s Norwich Medical School said, “Our results shed light on how the blood and immune system react to infection.

“Fighting an infection requires a lot of energy and fat stores are huge energy stores that provide the blood stem cells with the fuel to strengthen the immune response.

“Working out the mechanism by which this ‘fuel boost’ works gives us new ideas on how we can strengthen the body against infection in the future.”

Dr. Naiara Beraza of the Quadram Institute said, “Our results allow us to understand how our immune systems use fat to help respond to infections. Defining these mechanisms will enable us to develop new therapeutics to treat infections in the liver to develop.”

Dr. Rushworth said, “I hope our results will help improve the treatment of vulnerable and elderly people with infections in the future by boosting their immune responses.

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

“Free fatty acid transport via CD36 drives the β-oxidation-mediated hematopoietic stem cell response to infections” is published in the journal Nature communication on December 8th, 2021.

Salmonella – how the body defends itself

More information:
The transport of free fatty acids via CD36 drives the β-oxidation-mediated hematopoietic stem cell response to infection, Nature communication (2021).

Provided by the University of East Anglia

Quote: How the Body Uses Fat to Fight Infection (2021, December 8), accessed December 8, 2021 from

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