Most of us aren’t fond of our flab but perhaps it’s time to see it in a new light. Fat cells may be among our first line of defence against pathogens.
“Fat has an additional role we didn’t suspect,” says Jay Kolls of the University of Pittsburgh.
Beyond physical barriers such as skin, our main protection against marauding bacteria and viruses is the immune system. This is a complex network of cells with sophisticated weapons such as antibodies, which recognise and destroy foreign cells and proteins. But although many microbes multiply rapidly, it can take days for antibody production to ramp up. It now seems fat cells also play a defensive role – and they respond more speedily than many parts of the immune system.