Did You Know Fats Fight Against Pathogens in Your Body?

Researchers from University of Queensland recently discovered that the droplets of fat that exist inside our cells help our body’s defense system fight back against infections.

The international collaboration between researchers Professor Albert Pol from the University of Barcelona and Professor Robert Parton from UQ Institute for Molecular Bioscience discovered these fat droplets to be both a weapon and a food source against bacterial invaders.

Professor Parton stated that scientists had previously thought the bacteria merely used the lipid droplets as food but had found out that the fatty droplets were also involved in the battle between our cells and pathogens.

He added that the fat is part of the cell’s armory. The cells fire these lipid droplets at these foreign pathogens once they manufacture toxic proteins and package them into the lipid droplets. This, he says, is a way that cells are using to defend themselves; they use fats as a weapon, which provides new insights into other ways to fight body infections.

This comes at a time when researchers are working hard towards finding alternative ways of fighting infections, as antibiotic-resistant superbugs are on the rise. One potential alternative would be to increase the body’s natural defenses.

Professor Pol stated that when white blood cells called macrophages were infected, they observed that the lipid droplets moved to the part of the macrophage that housed the bacteria.

They noted that how white blood cells used energy was also affected by the bacterial infection. Pol added that the lipid droplets could be used as an alternative source of fuel for mitochondria when other nutrients weren’t sufficient. During an infection, the lipid droplets moved away from the mitochondria and attacked the bacteria instead, which altered the cells’ metabolism.

Professor Parton, who is a cell biologist, was inspired to carry on with this research after the phenomenon that was observed in fruit flies.

He remarked that many had thought the lipid droplets to be blobs of fat which were only useful for energy storage. However, now that researchers have observed them acting as metabolic switches in the cell, defending the body against infection and more, entire scientific conferences of researchers have been dedicated to researching more about them.

He then added that the next step in their research was to discover how the lipid droplets targeted the bacteria. That way, they could not only understand the body’s natural defenses but also develop new therapies that would be reliant on antibiotics to fight infections that were drug-resistant.

The biomedical space is bringing to light lots of novel discoveries and therapies based on those discoveries. One interesting company to watch in this regard is Processa Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: PCSA). They focus on developing products to address any unmet needs of treating different conditions yet clinical evidence of efficacy for helpful interventions exists.

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