Both studies are reported in this week's online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
"These two studies, while not directly related, show that the neuroendocrine system plays a big role in both the immune system and obesity," said Pamela Fraker, MSU professor of biochemistry and molecular biology and lead scientist for both projects. "MSU is one of the few places studying the relationship between metabolism, the immune system and the neuroendocrine system."
A new role for leptin
One MSU research team discovered that leptin, a hormone produced by fat cells, supports white blood cell production in the body, enhancing immune function. This is the first time leptin's effect on the immune system has been demonstrated.
Scientists have long known that leptin helps control how much a person eats as well as how quickly the body burns energy.
"Many investigators have been trying to unlock the key to obesity for years," said Fraker. "The more fat a person has, the more leptin there is in the bloodstream. In obese people, it seems that the body becomes leptin-resistant -- the signals get jammed. So giving obese people leptin doesn't help them lose weight."
The MSU scientists were examining ob/ob mice (genetically programmed to have non-functional leptin) and db/db mice (genetically programmed to have non-functional leptin receptors), giving them supplemental leptin to study its effects. While causing the mice to eat less, the big surprise was leptin's effect on the immune system. The mice that were given leptin had double the number of B cells, a type of white blood cell produced in bone marrow that fights infection by making antibodies.
"This is a brand new role for leptin," said Fraker. "It appears that most obese people may be somewhat immunosuppressed. This finding shows us that the body's resistance to leptin plays a role in that, too."
To further study leptin's effect on the immune system, Fraker and her colleagues are planning a study on morbidly obese people who will be having gastric bypass surgery. While the outcome of the surgery is highly successful for most people, mortality rates can range from 2 to 10 percent, which is significant.
"Infection from poor wound healing, which is the result of reduced immune function, is one reason people die from the surgery," Fraker said. "We're going to measure people's immune function before and after surgery to see how much it improves, as well as how fast it improves."
Other members of this research team are MSU scientists Louis King, research assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, and Kate Claycombe, assistant professor of food science and human nutrition.
Naturally-produced steroids don't inhibit immune system
While corticosteroids, such as prednisone, reduce inflammation, they also inhibit the body's immune system -- a person taking prescription steroids is more susceptible to infection. Another MSU research team found that corticosteroids produced naturally in the body don't have this same immunosuppressive effect.
The human body secretes corticosteroids when it's under stress, both psychological and physical, and these steroids are responsible for the "fight-or-flight response" in humans and other animals. Cortisol (also called hydrocortisone) is the most abundant corticosteroid in the body. These steroids' anti-inflammatory effects are well-known and pharmaceutical companies have been making versions of them for about 20 years. But people taking steroids are warned that cuts and bruises may be slow to heal because of steroids' effects on the immune system.
Fraker and her team's discovery that the naturally-produced versions of the steroids don't affect the immune system like the pharmacological versions is the first time this has been observed.
"With the pharmacological versions of steroids, you lose some immune function," Fraker explained. "With the natural versions, you retain neutrophil [a type of white blood cell] function. It may be worthwhile for pharmaceutical companies to investigate synthesizing natural versions of the steroids."
Pam Fraker | EurekAlert!
'Living bandages': NUST MISIS scientists develop biocompatible anti-burn nanofibers
16.02.2018 | National University of Science and Technology MISIS
New process allows tailor-made malaria research
16.02.2018 | Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen
Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale
Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...
For photographers and scientists, lenses are lifesavers. They reflect and refract light, making possible the imaging systems that drive discovery through the microscope and preserve history through cameras.
But today's glass-based lenses are bulky and resist miniaturization. Next-generation technologies, such as ultrathin cameras or tiny microscopes, require...
Scientists from the University of Zurich have succeeded for the first time in tracking individual stem cells and their neuronal progeny over months within the intact adult brain. This study sheds light on how new neurons are produced throughout life.
The generation of new nerve cells was once thought to taper off at the end of embryonic development. However, recent research has shown that the adult brain...
Theoretical physicists propose to use negative interference to control heat flow in quantum devices. Study published in Physical Review Letters
Quantum computer parts are sensitive and need to be cooled to very low temperatures. Their tiny size makes them particularly susceptible to a temperature...
Let’s say the armrest is broken in your vintage car. As things stand, you would need a lot of luck and persistence to find the right spare part. But in the world of Industrie 4.0 and production with batch sizes of one, you can simply scan the armrest and print it out. This is made possible by the first ever 3D scanner capable of working autonomously and in real time. The autonomous scanning system will be on display at the Hannover Messe Preview on February 6 and at the Hannover Messe proper from April 23 to 27, 2018 (Hall 6, Booth A30).
Part of the charm of vintage cars is that they stopped making them long ago, so it is special when you do see one out on the roads. If something breaks or...
15.02.2018 | Event News
13.02.2018 | Event News
12.02.2018 | Event News
16.02.2018 | Information Technology
16.02.2018 | Health and Medicine
16.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy