Does having more skin fat help fight infections? Science may have found some answers. Professor Maksim Plikus, Developmental and Cell Biology, and his laboratory partners recently contributed to a new study that revealed skin fat to be part of the human body’s innate immune response. The study showed that during a bacterial infection, activation of skin’s adipose progenitors and the secretion of antimicrobial peptides ultimately form a newly recognized arm of the innate immune response.
Adipocytes and their progenitors reside in skin at all times and they are in place when infection strikes. They mount a very quick antimicrobial defense before adaptive immune system cells such as macrophages arrive. The researchers showed that in mice with genetically compromised adipose tissue (i.e. skinny mice), local skin infection often goes systemic (i.e. septicemia).
The study, done in collaboration with colleagues at UC San Diego, is published in the January 2nd edition of Science.